First start for Wandesile as Harris leads Stormers

rugby07 March 2024 15:30| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich
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Wandisile Simelane © Gallo Images

The value of the friendly that the DHL Stormers have organised against Northampton Saints is underlined by the players that have been included in the team that is to travel to England Saturday's game.

When your selection is too narrow and players don’t get many opportunities it can lead to a challenging situation from a man management perspective, and the Stormers have several good players in reserve who deserve to play more than an off-field role in the franchise’s development.

With the English club currently in excellent form and top of their league they are likely to be formidable opponents even without their England internationals who are playing in the Six Nations game against Ireland the same day.

So Saturday’s game in Northampton will also be a good tester for the likes of young flyhalf Jurie Matthee and the new centre Wandesile Simelane, who makes his first start for the Cape team since moving from the Vodacom Bulls.

Coach John Dobson hasn’t selected the players who have spent this week at the national alignment camp so he has been able to mix and match his selections and with Dan du Plessis lining up alongside Simelane, Ben Loader playing on the wing and Warrick Gelant continuing at fullback, the Stormers team is a strong one even though far from full strength.

Former Griquas centre Chris Hollis gets a chance to play for the Stormers on the wing, with Suleiman Hartzenberg, who has played quite a bit of Vodacom United Rugby Championship and Champions Cup rugby this season, only playing off the bench.


Stefan Ungerer, another former Griquas player, makes his first start in a while at scrumhalf.

Gary Porter is also back from injury and will play in the second row alongside the young but highly promising Connor Evans, while there is a welcome return at hooker for JJ Kotze, who is highly rated by the coaches but missed the early part of the season due to his studies.

Chad Solomon makes his first appearance in a Stormers squad for quite a while but it needs to be noted that they are taking an extended squad of 26, and veteran Scarra Ntubeni is another hooker who is also part of the group.

It’s also been a while since we’ve seen Junior Pokomela in action so so his appearance in a loose trio that includes Keke Morabe and Willie Engelbrecht, and with Marcel Theunissen, Ben-Jason Dixon, Nama Xaba and Hacjivah Dayimani all backing up should be welcomed.

The Stormers do have plenty of depth at loose-forward, as do the Bulls.
Veteran prop Brok Harris, playing loosehead again in the absence of the injured Ali Vermaak, will lead the team.

The game against the Gallagher Premiership log leaders will kick off at 4:30pm on Saturday at the Cinch Stadium in Franklin’s Gardens and it will represent a great opportunity for the Stormers players to assess the form of the fringe players ahead of their return to URC action against Edinburgh a fortnight later.

From there the Stormers go into a busy period that includes a crunch URC game against Ulster the week after the Edinburgh game, and then LaRochelle come to town for the eagerly awaited round of 16 Investec Champions Cup clash on 6 April.

DHL Stormers team to play Northampton: Warrick Gelant, Chris Hollis, Wandesile Simelane, Dan du Plessis, Ben Loader, Jurie Matthee, Stefan Ungerer, Keke Morabe, Junior Pokomela, Willie Engelbrecht, Connor Evans, Gary Porter, Sazi Sandi, JJ Kotze, Brok Harris (captain).

Replacements: Chad Solomon, Leon Lyons, Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, Scarra Ntubeni, Ben-Jason Dixon, Nama Xaba, Marcel Theunissen, Godlen Masimla, Hacjivah Dayimani, Damian Markus, Suleiman Hartzenberg.