Frans leads as Stormers mix up their selection

rugby19 April 2024 11:01| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich
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Frans Malherbe © Gallo Images

Springbok tighthead prop Frans Malherbe will lead the DHL Stormers in their round 14 Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash with the Ospreys at DHL Stadium on Saturday.

Head coach John Dobson, as was anticipated, has decided to mix and match his selections for this game as he continues to work on building depth, and with several players not having played in a while this is probably the right time to reintroduce them with a mind to them potentially being needed during the sharp end of the season.

Gary Porter, who has never let the side down when he has played but has been prevented by injury from playing as often as he could have, will pair up with Adre Smith in a new look second row. Regular captain Salmaan Moerat is being rested while Ruben van Heerden, who has had a big workload recently, will provide lock cover from the bench.

With a northern hemisphere tour now just a few weeks away, it also makes sense to give scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer, who has probably the best kicking game of all the Stormers scrumhalves, a run in the No 9 jersey.

After their fine game together against Edinburgh a few weeks ago, the Stormers won’t have any second thoughts about having Dan du Plessis and Wandisile Simelane together in the midfield, while Damian Willemse plays this week off the bench.

“It is important for us to carry on with the mindset of trying to build a very strong squad,” said forwards coach Rito Hlungwani.

“Someone like JJ Kotze is a very strong player at hooker and deserves another opportunity, while Frans was on the bench in our last game. It is also great to see Gary (Porter) starting. He’s a very promising player who hasn’t had too much playing time recently. Every time he plays for us, he plays well.

“With Deon Fourie out injured we needed a fetcher, so Nama Xaba comes in as the openside flank. It is a good time to see Nama picking up some form. He’s had some bad luck with injuries, but we have another two looseforwards playing in this game in the form of Hacjivah (Dayimani) and Evan (Roos).

Stefan hasn’t played in a while so he needs game time, Manie (Libbok) is of course playing and outside him Dan and Wandisile showed when they last played together what an exciting combination they can be. The back three, with Warrick (Gelant) at fullback are a settled combination. 

Hlungwani denied that the changes were in any way an indication that the Stormers see the Ospreys as inferior opponents to Leinster, who they play in Cape Town the following week.

“We honestly haven’t selected with the Leinster game or any other match we face in the future in mind. We know how good the Ospreys are and we know they are just a few points behind us on the log in seventh place, so this is an important game for us and the La Rochelle game in the Champions Cup we have been putting everything into preparing for the Ospreys.”

Skipper Malherbe backed up what the assistant coach said.

“We are fully focused on the Ospreys and while there have been changes to the team, I don’t see it as that much changed, there are several players playing who I would refer to as regulars,” said the double World Cup winning Springbok prop who was first introduced to the Stormers captaincy when he was named as co-captain along with Juan de Jongh in 2016.

“We are not looking ahead. All of the preparation work, all of the analysis, this past week has been on the Ospreys. If you look at the log you will note that there is just a five-point difference between us in fifth place and the 11th placed team. It is unbelievably close, and the Ospreys are one of the teams in the mix, so our focus is just to win this game.”

Of course, a try scoring bonus point to go with a win will be handy too, but Hlungwani says that it will only be part of the thinking if the first objective of laying a platform for victory has been achieved.

“We’ve got a plan, and we think it is a good plan, to win the game. We don’t really want to put ourselves under extra pressure, the primary objective first and foremost is to the win the game,” said Hlungwani.

Team: Warrick Gelant, Suleiman Hartzenberg, Wandisile Simelane, Dan du Plessis, Ben Loader, Manie Libbok, Stefan Ungerer, Evan Roos, Hacjivah Dayimani, Nama Xaba, Gary Porter, Adre Smith, Frans Malherbe (captain), JJ Kotze, Brok Harris. Replacements: Scarra Ntubeni, Kwenzo Blose, Sazi Sandi, Ruben van Heerden, Willie Engelbrecht, Marcel Theunissen, Paul de Wet, Damian Willemse.