Cape Town - Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has decided to stick with what worked in pre-season warm-up matches against the Western Force and Sharks for Saturday’s opening Super 14 clash with the Lions.
The Stormers team that will play the Lions at Coca-Cola Park will feature only combinations that were involved in the 54-12 win over the Force and the 29-14 victory over the Sharks. In essence, the only player to face the Lions who was not in the starting lineup for the opening tri-series match against the Force three weeks ago is Schalk Burger.
The skipper sat out the first game as a precautionary measure and played only the first half against the Sharks, but he has now recovered from the injury that kept him sidelined earlier in the week and is ready to lead the team.
“I feel fresh and ready and I am looking forward to the match,” said Burger.
The same can be said for Burger’s fellow flanker Francois Louw, who was out with a hip flexor complaint for 10 days.
“Both Flo (Louw) and Scalla (Burger) participated fully in training for the past two days so that tells you they are ready to play,” said Coetzee.
“As you will see, I am sticking largely with the combinations that played against the Force and the Sharks. It makes sense to keep with what works and the players who played in those games know the systems well, we saw that in the matches they played together.”
That explains the omission of Springbok scrumhalf Ricky Januarie, who displayed good form during a two-month stint with the Ospreys in Wales during the off-season and who was sharp in the final warm-up match against Boland last weekend.
“Ricky has done well overseas, but Dewaldt Duvenage has been in the system longer and I would rather start this weekend with the halfback combination that has played together,” said the coach.
The selection means there will be Stormers Super 14 debuts for the two Springboks lured to the Cape since last year, Bryan Habana and Jaque Fourie, as well as young lock De Kock Steenkamp. The latter will be expected to fill in for Adriaan Fondse until the former Bulls player has returned from a long-term injury enforced absence.
15-Joe Pietersen, 14-Gio Aplon, 13-Jaque Fourie, 12-Juan De Jongh, 11-Bryan Habana, 10-Peter Grant, 9-Dewaldt Duvenage, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Francois Louw, 6-Schalk Burger (captain), 5-Andries Bekker, 4-De Kock Steenkamp, 3-Brok Harris, 2-Tiaan Liebenberg, 1-Wicus Blaauw
Substitutes: Deon Fourie, JC Kritzinger, Anton Van Zyl, Pieter Louw, Ricky Januarie, Lionel Cronje, Sireli Naqelevuki