Pilferers’ paradise at Newlands?
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – A return to the starting line-up for Deon Fourie, most probably in the place of injured Scarra Ntubeni at hooker, may well be a blessing in disguise for the Stormers against the Force at Newlands on Saturday (17:05 kick-off).
Throwing in to the lineout is an erratic string to Fourie’s bow, which is probably something that thwarts any Springbok aspirations in the slot, but he is a tigerish and tireless presence in general play ... and will need to be a livewire once more given that the Stormers’ Super Rugby opponents this weekend are led by a man with some “killer stats” at present in the form of captain and flanker Matt Hodgson.
Watch your pockets at the stadium, because the 32-year-old open-sider, who has led the Force to rare terrain near the top of the overall table this year, is a highly-rated stealer and currently leads the category for most turnovers won in the competition (15).
But if you’re guarding the left one on your jeans, make sure you also cover the right, because Fourie lurks just behind Hodgson in joint second (13 pilfers) with Michael Hooper of the Waratahs and the Hurricanes’ Jack Lam.
Unless Schalk Burger’s back problem, picked up during the derby against the Bulls at Loftus last Saturday, opens up a loose forward position for the versatile Fourie, he is highly likely to fill the Ntubeni vacancy at No 2, given his superior experience to both of Stephan Coetzee (22) and the 21-year-old rookie Mike Willemse.
The Stormers announce their match-day squad on Wednesday.
Should he be restored to the hooker’s berth, Fourie would instantly assume the dual responsibility of being the primary fetcher as well – No 6 incumbent Nizaam Carr is coming on in leaps and bounds but that department is still not his speciality.
So the breakdown tussle between Wallaby-capped Hodgson and Fourie could be something to savour, even if this is a match where only one team – and it is sadly not the home one – still has finals series aspirations.
The Force skipper leads the entire Super Rugby 2014 field in another key area: tackles made.
Hodgson has, according to the stats, made as many as 156 of them – an energy-sapping average of more than 15 a game for the Perth franchise’s cause if you were to divide it among the 10 games they’ve played thus far.
He is some way ahead of the next most industrious customer in that regard, but it is at least a South African next up with his 132 tackles – emerging Bulls blind-sider Jacques du Plessis.
The Bulls have a bye this weekend, so Hodgson gets the chance at Newlands to widen the gap even more ...*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing