Sithole return boosts Stormers for Newport clash

rugby09 May 2024 12:31
By:Gavin Rich
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Sti Sithole © Gallo Images

First choice loosehead prop Sti Sithole is among three players returning from injury who will be part of the DHL Stormers’ match day 23 for Friday night’s must win Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash with the Dragons at Newport.

Sithole’s injury enforced absence coincided with a prop crisis for the Stormers, with director of rugby John Dobson at one point forced to bring back loan player Leon Lyons from Griquas. At the time, the Stormers also had Ali Vermaak and Lizo Gqoboko on the injured list, and those two are still out, but Sithole is back in the saddle and his strong scrumming will be welcomed against the Dragons.

It means the experienced veteran Brok Harris moves to the bench for a game at a venue that he called home for several seasons while playing for the Dragons. There’s also a swap at tighthead, with Neethling Fouche, man of the match against Leinster two weeks ago, moving to the bench to accommodate the return to the No 3 jersey of Springbok first choice tighthead Frans Malherbe.

The other players returning from injury are Angelo Davids, who starts on the wing in place of the injured Ben Loader, while Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu is included among three backline players on the bench. One of those fellow reserve backs, Jean-Luc du Plessis, is also effectively returning from injury for although he has been back in training for a while, he hasn’t played for the Stormers since he was injured in the first half of the Christmas derby against the Vodacom Bulls.

With Wandesile Simelane starting at outside centre alongside Dan du Plessis, it means Springbok World Cup winner Damian Willemse is being rested for this game. We are likely to see him in the mix for the following week’s clash with Connacht in Galway. Simelane played as a replacement last time out, with Du Plessis playing in the No 13 jersey in that game.

Aside from the two changes to the front row, the only other change to the pack that started in the 42-12 win over Leinster is the inclusion of Willie Engelbrecht on the openside flank, where he replaces Marcel Theunissen. The latter, who made his landmark 50th appearance against Leinster, is not involved in the match day 23 this week.

It is a strong Stormers team and as this is a match where we might have expected more fringe players to get a game, the selection is reflective of the make-or-break point of the season that the Stormers have reached. Defeat will put them out of the running for a top four place and also seriously jeopardise the Cape team’s chances of retaining their Investec Champions Cup status for next season.

“There is little room for error as the playoffs get closer and having had all of last week to prepare, we are determined to give our best on Friday,” said Dobson.

“We know that Rodney Parade is a tough place to play, so it will require a big game from us to get the result that we need.”

DHL STORMERS TEAM: Warrick Gelant, Suleiman Hartzenberg, Wandisile Simelane, Dan du Plessis, Angelo Davids, Manie Libbok, Elton Jantjies, Evan Roos, Ben-Jason Dixon, Willie Engelbrecht, Ruben van Heerden, Salmaan Moerat (captain), Frans Malherbe, Joseph Dweba, Sti Sithole. Replacements: Andre-Hugo Venter, Brok Harris, Neethling Fouche, Adre Smith, Hacjivah Dayimani, Stefan Ungerer, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu.