No Frans and Sacha plays off the bench at Loftus

rugby01 March 2024 11:04| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich
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Frans Malherbe © Gallo Images

There will be no Frans Malherbe in the DHL Stormers match day 23 for Saturday’s big Vodacom United Rugby Championship derby against the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus.

Stormers defence coach Rito Hlungwani said during the week that Malherbe, the Springbok double World Cup winner who has not played since the global final last October, would be part of the mix at Loftus. However, that was on Tuesday, and either plans changed or head coach John Dobson decided Malherbe wasn’t quite ready to return to the field.

Instead of Malherbe, it is Sazi Sandi who backs up the impressive Neethling Fouche, and if there hadn’t been so much talk about Malherbe during the week Sandi’s return from injury would have been seen as a big boost for the team. Sandi was actually one of the star performers when the Stormers started their sequence of seven consecutive wins against the Bulls in Pretoria in January 2022.

If there is any concern for the Stormers from a scrum viewpoint, it is on the other side of the scrum, where Ali Vermaak’s injury sustained as a starter against the Hollywoodbets Sharks last time out sees veteran Brok Harris make his expected switch to the loosehead side as cover for Sti Sithole.

Sithole coming in for Vermaak and Deon Fourie coming back at openside flank for Marcel Theunissen, and as captain, are the only changes to the pack that started two weeks ago at Hollywoodbets Kings Park. That means that there is no place yet for Springbok Salmaan Moerat, who was named as the regular captain at the start of the season, although he will have an important role to play from what looks like a strong bench.

That bench also includes Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, the backline star alongside Warrick Gelant in the match against the Sharks. Head coach John Dobson was always going to face a difficult task trying to accommodate Feinberg-Mngomezulu in the same backline as Damian Willemse, who has returned from his Bok mandatory rest.

So has Manie Libbok, which means there is a change at both flyhalf and inside centre, with Jurie Matthee, the young player who delivered a solid performance from the pivot position in Durban, dropping out of the squad for the Pretoria trip.

In all, there are three changes to the backline as Dobson has wisely decided to back Dan du Plessis’ defensive organisation skills by including him at outside centre, with Suleiman Hartzenberg the man to miss out there. The fact both Hartzenberg and Matthee, plus Feinberg-Mngomezulu, are missing out on starting places is confirmation of the depth the Stormers boast in some positions. Ditto the absence of Wandesile Simelane, who Dobson said he was eager to include given the progress he has made in training at his new franchise after moving from the Bulls at the start of the year.

Dobson has opted to continue with Hacjivah Dayimani off the back of the scrum, meaning Evan Roos will continue at blindside flank against the Bulls. He did play well there against the Sharks, and he has the influential Ben-Jason Dixon to back him up in that position and he will no doubt come onto the field at some point, with Dayimani or Roos going off depending on what is required by the match situation.

Once again, the weekend will see an Origin Round in the South African derbies, with the schools the various players went to listed next to their names.

DHL Stormers: Warrick Gelant (Outeniqua), Ben Loader (Wellington College), Dan du Plessis (Paul Roos), Damian Willemse (Paul Roos), Leolin Zas (Hermanus High School), Manie Libbok (Hoerskool Outeniqua), Herschel Jantjies (Paul Roos), Hacjivah Dayimani (Jeppe), Evan Roos (Paarl Boys), Deon Fourie (captain, Hoerskool Pietersburg), Ruben van Heerden (Affies), Adre Smith (Oakdale), Neethling Fouche (Grey College), Joseph Dweba (HTS Louis Botha), Sti Sithole (Westville Boys High). Replacements: Andre-Hugo Venter (Grey College), Brok Harris (Bastion), Sazi Sandi (St Andrews), Salmaan Moerat (Paarl Boys High), Ben-Jason Dixon (Paul Roos), Marcel Theunissen (Grey College), Paul de Wet (Paarl Boys), Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (Bishops).