Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - Had Duane Vermeulen
been able to return to the Stormers’ ranks for Saturday’s Super Rugby semi-final derby against the Sharks at Newlands here, the battle between the respective loose trios would have thrown up an interesting clash of styles.
Certainly a Stormers combination of Siya Kolisi, Rynhardt Elstadt and a suitably fit-again Vermeulen would have been particularly handsomely equipped for the physical side of the keenly-anticipated showdown.
They might have been tipped to shade that area, especially if the five men immediately in front of them were doing enough to ensure front-foot status.
But with a timely comeback after months on the sidelines finally deemed just too risky and premature for the big unit on Wednesday, the admirably adaptable Deon Fourie instead earns a second start in the key No 8 position, after a convincing “debut” against the Melbourne Rebels less than a fortnight ago.
What the diminutive whippet’s retention undoubtedly does is provide the Stormers with a counter-measure to the expected, notably mobile loose forward combination of captain Keegan Daniel
, Marcell Coetzee
and Ryan Kankowski
for the opposition.
Their dynamism as a unit in recent weeks has been an essential influencer of the Sharks’ broader vitality: all three boast healthy doses of X-factor in open play but have pitched up in a big way, too, in the collision and tackling departments.
Had Vermeulen - especially given his chronic lack of game-time - been rushed back into combat for the Stormers, it might have been reasonable to expect the visitors to boast a collective edge for back-row pace.
The retention of Fourie, though, handily redresses that a little from a Stormers point of view.
Asked by Sport24 at Wednesday’s press briefing whether Fourie keeping his spot might serve as a bit of a blessing in disguise, coach Allister Coetzee
replied: “They are completely different players, of course.
“But what I can say is that Deon is a really energetic player; he’s all over the field. He has a great engine and is a really hard worker ... also very good on the ground.
“Duane brings other (attributes) but we’ve coped up to now in his absence throughout the season. It’s another opportunity for Deon to show his versatility in quite an intense and high-quality game.
“We’re taking it one day at a time with Duane; he’s shown great progress but to play with this intensity, at this time of the season ... it’s perhaps just not the right thing to do, to push any player.
“I’ve said it from the word go, I believe in playing 100 percent fit players, and Deon was man of the match in our last game (against the Rebels); I’m sure he can do the job for us again.”Teams:
15. Joe Pietersen, 14. Gio Aplon, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Jean de Villiers (captain), 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Peter Grant, 9. Dewaldt Duvenage, 8. Deon Fourie, 7. Rynhardt Elstadt, 6. Siya Kolisi, 5. Andries Bekker, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Brok Harris, 2. Tiaan Liebenberg, 1. Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16. Frans Malherbe, 17. Deon Carstens, 18. De Kock Steenkamp, 19. Don Armand, 20. Louis Schreuder, 21. Burton Francis, 22. Gerhard van den HeeverSharks:
15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski
, 7 Marcell Coetzee
, 6 Keegan Daniel
(captain), 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Odwa Ndungane, 22 Riaan Viljoen
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