Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - Gaining on the swings, losing on the roundabout? That is something to consider in the Stormers’ mildly surprising choice of Deon Fourie at hooker for their Super Rugby derby with the Cheetahs at Newlands on Saturday.
The turnover department in the loose and the front row scrap in the set scrums shape up as potential areas the visitors will target in their quest for an upset win, which would be their first in this competition against the Stormers since 2007.
And back-in-favour hooker Fourie will be a player under the spotlight, interestingly, in each area.
Although there are always “rotational” factors to consider at such an advanced stage of the campaign - and normal first-choice Tiaan Liebenberg is the type of confrontational beast who needs to be rested now and then - there are certain risks at play in coach Allister Coetzee’s decision to give Fourie a rare start and have Liebenberg lurking on the bench for the Cheetahs’ challenge.
One key reason for preferring Fourie as a horse for this particular course is extremely obvious: the Stormers do not currently have an out-and-out fetcher, while the Cheetahs, by contrast, sport the country’s virtually undisputed best No 6 in the form of Heinrich Brüssow.
For good measure, this will be the diminutive Springbok’s 50th Super Rugby cap, thus a further incentive for him to do some damage to the home side’s battle-plan.
Fourie, along with the Sharks’ eternally stand-out Bismarck du Plessis, is one of the best poachers in a No 2 (or often No 16, of course) jersey in South Africa, his unusual speed to the breakdown and iron will essential features to his makeup.
So it is a comfort to the Stormers to have his dynamic presence in their midst.
But now for the “roundabout” part: the Cheetahs no doubt have every intention of trying to put a front-row squeeze on the hosts, in the form of their settled unit of behemoth Coenie Oosthuizen, brawny captain Adriaan Strauss and tighthead specialist WP Nel.
Surrendering Liebenberg means that the Stormers do also lose almost 10 kilograms of handy beef in their own front row, where Steven Kitshoff is an emerging rookie, but a rookie all the same, and Brok Harris at No 3 is more renowned for his exemplary work-rate than real right-shoulder menace.
With the lighter Fourie now installed at hooker, the Cheetahs will be even more desirous of dominating the set-piece - albeit that you always have no lack of takers in the Stormers brains trust insisting Fourie is, indeed, no slouch on the scrummaging front.
Saturday might be an opportune time for Pretoria-born Fourie to confirm it, if he can ...
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