Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Durban - Both the Sharks and Stormers will be fielding their “athletic” hookers when these coastal giants meet in a Super Rugby derby at Kings Park here on Saturday (19:10 kick-off).
The home team’s Craig Burden, who cut his first-class teeth as a wing, and the Capetonians’ Deon Fourie, who hardly lacks pace off the mark himself, go head to head in what largely amounts to a battle of each franchise’s second-choice No 2s.
The Sharks’ Springbok strongman Bismarck du Plessis remains some weeks off a return to activity in the competition after tearing knee ligaments in the Castle Rugby Championship Test against Argentina at Newlands last year, whilst the Stormers’ own main “physical” hooker, Tiaan Liebenberg
, has also not seen any competitive duty yet in 2013.
Fourie, who like Burden can also claim positional versatility because he is an extremely competent open-side flanker when the need arises, enters this fixture under greater pressure than his opposite number.
For one thing his direct opponent, who is not especially renowned as a scrummager, has the benefit of gnarly Springbok props on either side of him in the shape of Beast Mtawarira
and Jannie du Plessis.
Fourie is not quite so lucky because although both Steven Kitshoff and Frans
Malherbe (preferred to Pat Cilliers at tighthead this week) have rich potential, they cannot claim nearly the same levels of wisdom.
He will also be expected to greatly sharpen up his lineout throwing after something approaching a disaster in that area in the defeat to the Bulls at Loftus last week - although he will take quiet comfort from the fact that the Stormers fell short in many other areas too.
Fourie may also find himself either back on the substitutes’ bench or considered at No 6 before too long.
That is because 31-year-old Liebenberg’s return is imminent: quite possibly as soon as the visit of champions the Chiefs for the Stormers’ first home fixture at Newlands next Saturday.
“Tiaan is almost ready to play ... definitely ready to play,” coach Allister Coetzee
told Sport24 upon inquiry at a media briefing this week.
“At a push he could probably have played this weekend (in Durban), but it’s a matter of giving Tiaan a chance to brush up on the conditioning stuff after his (back injury).
“It’s been his first week of doing full field work this week, so I’m sure for next Saturday he will be available for selection.”
Considering his delayed start to the season, it might be pushing it to expect Liebenberg to leap straight to a starting berth against the Chiefs, but he may be considered worthy of half an hour or so off the bench.
A senior pack member, it would be a comfort for the Stormers just to see him in the match 22 ... they will hope it marks the start of some “hardebaarde” filtering back: Schalk Burger
and Eben Etzebeth
remain sidelined for the time being.Teams:Sharks:
15. Louis Ludik, 14. JP Pietersen
, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Francois Steyn
(captain), 11. Lwazi Mvovo
, 10. Patrick Lambie
, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Ryan Kankowski
, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Marcell Coetzee
, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Anton Bresler, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Craig Burden, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19. Jacques Botes, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Meyer Bosman
, 22. Odwa NdunganeStormers:
15. Joe Pietersen
, 14. Gio Aplon, 13. Jean de Villiers (captain), 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Bryan Habana
, 10. Elton Jantjies
, 9. Nic Groom, 8. Duane Vermeulen
(vice-captain), 7. Rynhardt Elstadt, 6. Siya Kolisi
, 5. Andries Bekker
, 4. De Kock Steenkamp, 3. Frans
Malherbe, 2. Deon Fourie, 1. Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16. Martin Bezuidenhout, 17. Pat Cilliers, 18. Don Armand, 19. Nizaam Carr, 20. Louis Schreuder, 21. Peter Grant
, 22. Gerhard van den Heever*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing