Stormers come out firing



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Stormers captain Luke Watson was in a combative mood on Thursday, when a new-look Stormers outfit was named in a bid to turn their fortunes around when they face the Chiefs at Newlands on Friday.

Coach Kobus van der Merwe has made eight changes to his starting line-up that went down to the Western Force last week, saying he is looking for a more “direct” approach, and maintaining this selection is no desperate “knee-jerk reaction”.

“It is still early days in the competition. We are blessed with a talented squad and we are looking at new combinations,” Van der Merwe told a media gathering at Newlands.

“We have selected players whom we feel will give us a more direct approach to crossing the gain line. We don’t want to be fielding sides that contain only game-breakers and that lose focus upon winning possession and gaining forward momentum.”

Conrad Jantjes moves from left wing to fullback in place of an out-of-sorts Gio Aplon, with a view for using Jantjes’s boot in gaining territorial advantage, while Dylan des Fountain comes in on the left wing for his Super 14 debut.

Des Fountain, usually an outside centre, is a more physical wing than Jantjes and Van der Merwe hinted that he will be used, along with Corn’ Uys, off first phase possession to cross the gain line.

Peter Grant has replaced Naas Olivier at fly-half and young JP Joubert comes in at scrum-half for Springbok Bolla Conradie.

Jean de Villiers has swapped positions with Corn’ Uys, although they will retain their jerseys from last week. This is in a bid to harness the strength of Uys in the inside channel as well as to allow De Villiers some freedom on the outside to score tries.

Up front Robbie Diack comes in at number eight for the injured Joe van Niekerk, Brok Harris will play at tighthead prop in place of Eddie Andrews and Tiaan Liebenberg takes over at hooker from Schalk Brits.

There are also changes to the bench, where an entire front row will await second half action while the more aggressive players of Justin Melck and Francois van der Merwe will no doubt be utilized too.

Surprisingly, De Wet Barry has dropped out of the squad completely, whilst Brent Russell is unlucky once again to not find himself in the starting line-up.

Van der Merwe said that both Russell and Schalk Brits are more effective than their rivals in coming off the bench as impact players, but he stopped short of confirming that Russell will definitely take to the field.

“We want to stamp our authority on the game up-front, and look to cross the gain line. That is why I have selected Peter [Grant],” the coach noted.

Meanwhile Luke Watson demonstrated a tenacity to cling onto the confidence and self-belief he feels are vital to success.

“The criticism has been rough outside the graceful walls of Newlands,” Watson said.

“But it has not been about a lack of talent or committment, but rather a lack of rhythm and timing.

“When we turn it on, we will show that we are capable of tearing any side to pieces. It is a matter of time. There are eleven more rounds, it must be remembered, before we make the semi-finals.”

Watson did, once again, mention that it has been tricky adjusting to the left and right combination that the team is employing with himself and fellow flank Schalk Burger.

“We are still adapting. But once we find our feet I have no doubt it will become one of the best combinations in the world.”

Van der Merwe noted that the decision to play Burger and Watson left and right instead of open and blindside did stem from the need to assist Jake White in his World Cup plans.

There is consequently a need to allow Schalk to be an opensider, as, he said, there is no chance of Luke playing for the Springboks.

Watson interjected, jokingly saying he had to become a line-out jumper before that would happen.

Stormers: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Breyton Paulse, 13 Corne Uys, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Dylan des Fountain, 10 Peter Grant, 9 JP Joubert, 8 Robbie Diack, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Luke Watson (c), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Gerrie Britz, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 JD Moller.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Eddie Andrews, 18 Schalk Ferreira, 19 Francois van der Merwe, 20 Justin Melck, 21 Bolla Conradie, 22 Brent Russell

Date: Friday, 16 February
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 18.30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Paul Marks (Australia)
Touch judges: Brett Bowden (Australia), Willie Roos (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

365 Digital

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