Damian de Allende boost for Stormers
The return of in-form centre Damian de Allende has boosted the Stormers’ confidence for Saturday’s Super Rugby elimination clash against the Sharks at Newlands.
The match is the 16th and final regular season game of a fraught 2019 campaign for both sides. But there is a play-off place on the line with the winner sure to progress to the quarterfinals and the loser likely to miss out.
De Allende’s return‚ after missing last week’s 31-18 win over the Sunwolves due to Springbok resting protocols‚ is one of three backline changes to the Stormers’ lineup for the match.
Wing Seabelo Senatla also returns after concussion with Craig Barry dropping out while scrumhalf Jano Vermaak starts due to Herschel Jantjies’ shoulder injury.
Justin Phillips is the reserve halfback on the bench.
“Having Damian in this match is massive for us because he is a such a key player‚” Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said.
“He has been excellent this season‚ especially in games against the Crusaders and Highlanders.
“We missed him last week in terms of direction and the width he gives us. He has really taken control this year and been a great link with outside backs and gets us go forward with his ability to put players into space.
“Damian’s kicking game has also improved so much this year. Defensively he is incredibly strong‚ and we’ll need that against the Sharks who like to bring their big runners into that vacuum. He is going to play a huge role in stopping that momentum.”
Losing the spectacular Jantjies for the clash does partly counter the gain have having De Allende back.
Jantjies has been the find of the season and is one of the fulcrums of the Stormers’ attacking game‚ while his nuggety defence will be missed as well.
“It’s been a good week of preparation in terms of injury disruptions‚” Fleck said.
“We were able to train with a full squad on Tuesday and Thursday with only Herschel missing out.
“Jano did an outstanding job when he came on last week because of his experience. He made good decisions but Herschel has been outstanding this year on both attack and defence.
“His ability to snipe and break around the edges of the breakdown have been key in terms of some of the tries we have scored. But his absence won’t change the type of game we want to play this weekend.
“And in Justin Phillips‚ we have an able reserve who has been a part of the squad all season‚ so he knows how we want to operate.”
The forward pack that started in the victory against the Sunwolves last week remains unchanged‚ while fit-again hooker Scarra Ntubeni features in the only change among the forward replacements.
"We have performed well at home this season and this is another opportunity for us to use that to our advantage‚” Fleck said.
"The key in a match like this will be to remain composed and accurate while operating at high intensity.”
15 Dillyn Leyds‚ 14 Seabelo Senatla‚ 13 JJ Engelbrecht‚ 12 Damian de Allende‚ 11 Edwill van der Merwe‚ 10 Josh Stander‚ 9 Jano Vermaak‚ 8 Jaco Coetzee‚ 7 Johan du Toit‚ 6 Ernst van Rhyn‚ 5 Chris van Zyl‚ 4 Cobus Wiese‚ 3 Frans Malherbe‚ 2 Bongi Mbonambi‚ 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Reserves: 16 Scarra Ntubeni‚ 17 Corne Fourie‚ 18 Wilco Louw‚ 19 David Meihuizen‚ 20 Chris Massyn‚ 21 Justin Phillips‚ 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis‚ 23 Dan Kriel.