Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Stormers can challenge Ulster in URC without Springbok stars

The Stormers' new signing, journeyman Ruben Schoeman, could be thrown straight into the fray against Ulster.

The Stormers face the massive task of trying to upset Irish powerhouse Ulster without their Springbok stars in their United Rugby Championship (URC) match at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast on Friday night.

Captain and prop Steven Kitshoff and utility back Damian Willemse have both started a month long break that has been designated to all key Springbok players, while Frans Malherbe, who has been injured since early December, also started his break.

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Despite missing their star players, assistant coach Rito Hlungwani is more than confident in the team that has been sent to the UK to take on Ulster, and admits this is what they have been preparing for all season.

“As you’ve seen throughout the year, we have always been rotating our team, when the Springboks were not around, and when they were around, we kept rotating,” explained Hlungwani.

“So, it’s pretty much the same system. We rotate our players to keep them fresh. The guys who are slightly overplayed have been given a rest, and we expect the standards to be as they have been over the past weeks.

 “So, we expect the same standards, and actually higher, because we always strive to improve every weekend.”

New signing

The Stormers new signing, journeyman Ruben Schoeman, could be thrown straight into the fray against Ulster, after being brought into the squad to bolster their lock stocks, which have been decimated by injury.

He could link up with stand-in captain Marvin Orie in the second row, or make an appearance off the bench.

“It’s always nice when a new lock comes into the system, especially one with Ruben’s quality. He is two metres tall and 120kg. He’s played for the Bulls, the Sharks and Exeter Chiefs, so he has massive experience,” said Hlungwani.

“He’s coming to fill in at No 4 and can also play at No 5 as well. Our pack thrives on physicality and a high level of intelligence when it comes to lineouts. We want Ruben to get comfortable as soon as possible and show what a good player he is.

“I always encourage the No 4 locks and No 7 flanks to get comfortable with calling the lineouts. Ruben has done it with the Sharks, Bulls and Exeter and is very comfortable with it. He will do this with us over the next few weeks once he has settled in and got the hang of our system.”

An interesting match-up that will also be taking place will see Springbok team mates Evan Roos and Duane Vermeulen squaring up once again.

Last season Roos upstaged Vermeulen with a top performance, even bouncing the player he described as his hero, and with the World Cup taking place later this year both will be keen to impress.