Stormers get missing four back
THE Stormers will be as close to full strength as possible at this stage of the season for Saturday's vital Super 15 match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Wing Bryan Habana, fullback Joe Pietersen, flank Rynhardt Elstadt and prop Steven Kitshoff return to the starting XV after missing last week through a combination if illness and suspension.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee confirmed that the flu bug, which felled Habana and Pietersen last Saturday and nearly accounted for centre Juan de Jongh earlier this week, has not caused more problems.
The return of Elstadt from a one-week suspension is a boost as it gives the back row better balance with Siya Kolisi returning to his preferred openside role and Canadian Jebb Sinclair at No8.
"Heinrich Brussow is one of the world's best players on the deck so we have to get stuck in to the breakdown, and be accurate by taking out the threat quickly and effectively," the coach said.
Kolisi struggled in the unfamiliar No8 position during the Stormers' 27-17 win over the Lions last week, but it is a job he might have to do more in the coming weeks.
The Stormers, who top the South African conference, are only one win away from securing their place in the play-offs.
Sinclair, who was drafted into the squad mid-season after injuries to Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen, Nick Koster and Nizaam Carr, is not eligible for the play-offs because of the tournament rules.
None of the four injured loose forwards is sure to be back in time for the knockout stages so Kolisi might have to reprise the eighthman role at a critical stage of the campaign.
That's why Coetzee hinted that the talented 20-year-old could get more game time at the back of the scrum at some stage on Saturday.
To further muddy the waters, Sinclair strained a calf muscle and sat out yesterday's training.
He could still be ruled out of Saturday's game if he fails a late fitness test, meaning a return to No8 for Kolisi. The Stormers have 58 log points and are four points clear of the second-placed Bulls.
The Bulls meet the Sharks in Durban tomorrow night and if the Pretoria team lose without securing a bonus point, the Stormers will only need one point from their last two games to secure the conference title.
Stormers team: Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bryan Habana, Peter Grant, Dewaldt Duvenage, Jebb Sinclair, Rynhardt Elstadt, Siya Kolisi, Andries Bekker, De Kock Steenkamp, Frans Malherbe, Deon Fourie, Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: Tiaan Liebenberg, Deon Carstens, Quinn Roux, Don Armand, Louis Schreuder, Burton Francis, Gerhard van den Heever.