Stormers bring out the big guns for Bulls
The Springbok trio of flank and skipper Siya Kolisi‚ tighthead Frans Malherbe and centre Damian de Allende are back in the starting lineup after last week’s 19-17 loss against the Brumbies.
There is also a return for Bok tourist JD Schickerling in the second row after several weeks out with a shoulder injury while Bok hard man Eben Etzebeth is among the reserves after missing three weeks with a calf muscle injury.
Hooker Scarra Ntubeni also makes a rare start with Bongi Mbonambi dropping to the bench in the other change to the pack while JJ Engelbrecht starts at outside centre in place of the injured Ruhan Nel.
Jean-Luc du Plessis also returns to flyhalf after being rested against the Brumbies last week.
The Bulls thrashed the Stormers 40-3 in round one of the 2019 campaign but have also struggled for consistency this season.
The fact that only four points separates first from last in the conference underlines how close it is.
Etzebeth missed that Loftus debacle and it’s clear the Stormers are seeking more physicality against their old northern rivals.
“It goes without saying that Eben’s influence is massive and having him available this week is massive for us‚” Stormers forwards coach Russell Winter said this week.
“It isn’t only physically that he makes a difference‚ it is his presence. We know when Eben is playing that we have a player who goes flat out every time and is never half hearted in his approach.
“I feel sorry for him as injuries keep preventing him from contributing as much to the team as he would like. He really wants to perform for the team though and when he is present he makes a massive difference.”
With Etzebeth being eased back via the bench‚ the impressive Cobus Wiese earns another start in the second row after being cleared during concussion protocols this week.
The Stormers also thought he might have fractured a cheekbone‚ but x-rays proved otherwise and despite being in a bit of pain‚ the youngster starts.
“It is great having senior players back‚ particularly at lock‚ where we have had four or five injuries‚” Winter said.
“But Cobus was outstanding the week before this one. But the return to fitness of JD and Eben couldn’t have come at a better time as we would have been struggling in that area otherwise because of the injuries.”
15 Damian Willemse‚ 14 Sergeal Petersen‚ 13 JJ Engelbrecht‚ 12 Damian de Allende‚ 11 Dillyn Leyds‚ 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis‚ 9 Herschel Jantjies‚ 8 Kobus van Dyk‚ 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ 6 Siya Kolisi (captain)‚ 5 JD Schickerling‚ 4 Cobus Wiese‚ 3 Frans Malherbe‚ 2 Scarra Ntubeni‚ 1 Steven Kitshoff.
16 Bongi Mbonambi‚ 17 Corne Fourie‚ 18 Wilco Louw‚ 19 Eben Etzebeth‚ 20 Ernst van Rhyn‚ 21 Justin Phillips‚ 22 Joshua Stander‚ 23 Seabelo Senatla.