The Stormers suffered a big blow a day before their United Rugby Championship (URC) quarterfinal against Edinburgh at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 7pm), when it was confirmed that Bok star Damian Willemse will miss the match due to injury.
Willemse has been in incredible form for their Stormers this season, largely playing at inside centre with Warrick Gelant at fullback, however an arm injury has ruled him out of the Edinburgh clash.
He will be replaced in the starting line-up by the returning Rikus Pretorius, while the only other change to the run-on team from the one that featured in their last pool match against Scarlets sees Bok Herschel Jantjies back at scrumhalf.
“We gave Damian as much time as we could to make it for this match, but in the end it was not worth the risk, especially as we have a quality player in Rikus to start at 12,” explained Stormers coach John Dobson.
“It also gives the talented Sacha Mngomezulu an opportunity to show what he can do when he comes on.”
Despite the disruption of Willemse missing out, the Stormers have still named a very strong team while Pretorius is a solid replacement, and they will still start as favourites against Edinburgh.
The hosts are currently on an eight match winning run in the competition and their only home loss this season came against the Lions in December last year, and backed by a partisan home crowd should help motivate them to a good win.
Edinburgh will be fired up for the clash, but if the Stormers can play at the same level that they have over the past few months they will have too much firepower for the Scottish side.
Having finished top of the SA conference and second on the log it is now time for the Stormers to prove that they have what it takes to challenge the competition favourites Leinster, and a big win over Edinburgh would be a strong signal of intent.
“A lot of hard work has gone into securing this home quarterfinal, so we are determined to rise to the occasion,” said Dobson.
“It has been a good week of preparation and everyone is excited about what should be a memorable day.”
“We want to raise the intensity and make sure that we are at our best for the full 80 minutes, playing the kind of rugby that has got us into this position.”