The Stormers face a potential centre problem with Jaco Taute ruled out for the first four to six weeks of Super Rugby after undergoing a scope on his knee earlier this week.
The Stormers take on the Cheetahs at Newlands on Friday night in their second warm-up match of the season.
Considering Jean de Villiers’ unavailability due to a long-term knee injury, Taute’s absence leaves the Stormers thin in the midfield for the opening weeks of the tournament.
Although the Stormers still have the imposing Damian de Allende in the No 12 jersey, Huw Jones’s rapid development has suddenly become vital. Jones was part of the University of Cape Town team that won the Varsity Cup last year and has impressed coach Allister Coetzee.
Freshman Johnny Kotze could also be an option at 12, but he has played all his rugby at outside centre. Experience is suddenly lacking.
As a consequence of the Taute setback, De Allende has been placed in cotton wool for this match due to slight quadricep strain. Coetzee is not taking any chances.
“At one stage we had three No 12s with Jaco, Damian and Jean and now we have only one fit inside centre in Damian,” Coetzee said. “But that is what this competition is about, it will test your depth and how you cope with injuries. Guys like Huw Jones and Johnny Kotze will have a chance to impress.”
Lock Eben Etzebeth will hope history does not repeat itself when he takes the field against the Cheetahs.
In 2013 he suffered a severe ankle injury in a pre-season clash against Boland at the Cape Town Stadium, which ruled him out of the first six weeks of the campaign.
And last year he missed the entire Super Rugby season due to a foot injury he suffered playing for the Springboks against France in Paris in November 2013.
Flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis will also make his first start of the campaign after sitting on the bench against the SWD Eagles last week. Lock Jean Kleyn comes on to the bench for his first formal action this year.
“This is the best possible team we can field at this stage,” Coetzee said. “They will test our defence in different ways.”