Pieter-Steph is switched to flank
Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit has been moved to blindside flank in a beefed up DHL Stormers pack for Saturday’s opening Vodacom Super Rugby tour match against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
Regular captain Siya Kolisi is being rested this week as per the Bok management policy, which is why there is place for Du Toit in the No 7 jersey, but with Chris van Zyl coming into the second row to partner Eben Etzebeth, the Stormers pack does have a beefed up look to it heading into the clash with the best forward unit in the competition.
The Stormers came off second best in their battle with the Emirates Lions in Cape Town last weekend, and coach Robbie Fleck will obviously asking a lot more from his big men this week. Du Toit has played blindside flank and when he made an early impression with the Sharks a few years ago it was as a No 7.
However, while he has played blindside for the Boks as a replacement on a few occasions, he has not often started on the flank, although there was the less than successful experiment that Springbok coach Allister Coetzee tried when he selected him among the loose-forwards for the Twickenham test match against England last November.
With Kolisi taking the week off the leadership reins are entrusted to lock and regular vice-captain Eben Etzebeth for the second time this season. He previously captained the Stormers when they beat the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth early last month.
The only other change to the Stormers starting pack is a rotational switch in the front row, with Wilco Louw returning to the starting team at tighthead prop and Springbok Frans Malherbe moving to the bench. The other change to the forward component on the replacement bench is the return to the match day squad of young Cobus Wiese, who sat out the Lions game because of an injury sustained in the win over the Chiefs.
There is a significant change at the back, with SP Marais ruled out with injury and Dillyn Leyds selected at fullback. Leyds was in the last line of defence against the Sunwolves in Singapore recently and performed well on attack in a game where the Stormers’ defence was questionable, which it cannot afford to be in Christchurch.
Former Bulls Bok Bjorn Basson comes in on the wing in Leyds’ place, while there is one other change to the backline, with Dewaldt Duvenage rotating with Jano Vermaak at scrumhalf. Duvenage has been in good form when he has played but was rested for last week’s match against the Lions in preparation for the three match tour of New Zealand.
After the disappointment of the first loss of the season to the Lions, Fleck is confident that the right adjustments have been made and that lessons were learned from the Newlands defeat.
“We have put some good plans in place and have trained well this week, so the players are all looking forward to getting out there and showing what they are capable of,” said Fleck.
“We know that we face an unbeaten team on Saturday, so this will be a great opportunity to test ourselves and see where we are as a group.”
DHL Stormers team: Dillyn Leyds, Cheslin Kolbe, EW Viloen, Dan du Plessis, Bjorn Basson, Robert du Preez, Dewaldt Duvenage, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Nizaam Carr, Chris van Zyl, Eben Etzebeth (captain), Wilco Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: Ramone Samuels, Oli Kebble, Frans Malherbe, Jan de Klerk, Cobus Wiese, Jano Vermaak, Kurt Coleman, Dan Kriel.