Holmes to lead the Stormers hunt
WESTERN Province Vodacom Cup coach John Dobson described new Stormers openside flank Tyrone Holmes as a "classic Fish Hoek skuit". And it was meant as a compliment.
Holmes, 26, will pack down on the side of the scrum in his first Super 15 match when the Stormers host the Lions this weekend - and his clash with visiting fetcher Derick Minnie will be vital.
It's just one of the juicy subplots to a clash that has all the ingredients for a classic backs-against-the-wall performance from the Lions, whose players have ousted their coach and whose future in Super rugby remains unclear.
Before the three-week test match break, the Lions mugged the Sharks at Ellis Park with a 38-28 win - only their second of the season - to deal a near fatal blow to the Sharks' play-off ambitions. They could dent the Stormers' chances of topping the SA Conference if they can reproduce that kind of performance.
The Lions cannot do better than last in the SA conference, but that won't stop them from giving 100% in an effort to take the scalp of a rejigged Stormers unit.
Holmes's inclusion makes him the 10th loose forward used by coach Allister Coetzee this season, and he is part of the seventh different back row combination.
Injuries have depleted the Stormers' loose forward options, but Dobson believes the Vodacom Cup player will take the step up comfortably.
"He's a classic number six who really scraps for the ball," Dobson said of the unknown newcomer.
"He won't take a step back all day. The only thing I'm slightly surprised by is that it's taken this long for him to get his chance."
Holmes's fellow flank is Don Armand, a man with only four caps off the bench. Siya Kolisi, who made his Super rugby debut this season and only has 13 caps, is suddenly the most experienced player in the back row.
The Lions, by contrast, have the abrasive Josh Strauss at No8 and the experienced Minnie at openside. On paper they should have the edge.
But the Stormers are a team that has overcome every setback thrown at them this season and it's difficult to imagine that this latest reshuffle would knock them off their stride.
The Lions have never beaten the Stormers in Super rugby, and although they are able to use several off-field matters to motivate them, winning the conference motivates the Stormers more.
The Bulls host the Cheetahs at Loftus and need to win, probably with five points, to have any realistic hope of catching the Stormers at the top of the standings.