Cape Town – There was a mixed bag of injury news for Stormers coach John Dobson on Thursday, and the upshot of that sees a re-jigged backline for Friday’s United Rugby Championship derby against the Bulls (7.15pm kickoff).
First, the good news: wing Leolin Zas has recovered from a knock to his calf in last week’s Champions Cup victory over London Irish and will wear the No 11 jersey at Cape Town Stadium.
Centre Dan du Plessis makes a welcome return from illness after having to sit out both Champions Cup ties against Clermont in France and Irish last week, and that has a positive knock-on effect as Damian Willemse can now move to fullback.
But the bad news when Dobson announced his team on Thursday is that outside centre Ruhan Nel has been unable to shake off his calf injury from the Irish clash, and he misses out.
Junior Springbok star Suleiman Hartzenberg is a more than capable replacement, though, and having played a bit at wing this season, he will relish the opportunity to make an impact in his preferred No 13 jersey.
Scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies, though, has been ruled out with an undisclosed injury, so Paul de Wet starts at No 9 and Godlen Masimla comes onto the bench.
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As expected, Bok lock Salmaan Moerat is out with what Dobson termed a “serious” knee injury after the Irish encounter, and with Gary Porter also not quite over his rib injury, Ben-Jason Dixon slots in at No 4.
Dobson was hopeful earlier in the week that star No 8 Evan Roos would be back from his rib injury sustained on Bok duty against England, but the 22-year-old has been left out of the match-23.
“These ‘festive derbies’ are going to become part of our rugby tradition going forward, so this is an exciting new chapter in the rivalry between the two teams,” the Stormers coach said on Thursday.
“We have had some injury disruptions this week, but have managed to build some good depth this season, and you can be sure that every player in our match-day squad will be ready to give it everything.
“This is a big match for both sets of fans and we are looking forward to what should be a fantastic atmosphere at Cape Town Stadium on Friday.”
15 Damian Willemse 14 Angelo Davids 13 Suleiman Hartzenberg 12 Dan du Plessis 11 Leolin Zas 10 Manie Libbok 9 Paul de Wet 8 Hacjivah Dayimani 7 Willie Engelbrecht 6 Deon Fourie 5 Marvin Orie 4 Ben-Jason Dixon 3 Frans Malherbe 2 Joseph Dweba 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Bench: 16 JJ Kotze 17 Ali Vermaak 18 Neethling Fouche 19 Connor Evans 20 Junior Pokomela 21 Marcel Theunissen 22 Godlen Masimla 23 Clayton Blommetjies.