CAPE TOWN – The Stormers’ outside backs for their Super Rugby Unlocked opener against the Lions at Newlands tomorrow (7pm kickoff) is certainly one of the most exciting aspects.
While the fact that Stormers coach John Dobson has named seven Springboks in his starting line-up for the match makes for another good focal point, the amount of pace and X-factor the trio of fullback Warrick Gelant and wings Sergeal Petersen and Leolin Zas bring add another superb subplot to what should be a hot contest, especially given recent history …
While this will be the Stormers’ first competitive game since rugby returned, the Lions will be eager to secure a win after they were edged in a thriller of a match against the Sharks last weekend (they lost 16-19), while they also came second in the SuperFan Saturday encounter against the Stormers.
Following their bye in the opening round, the Stormers have made just two changes to the starting line-up that played in the 34-21 victory against the Johannesburg side in their friendly at Loftus three weeks ago.
The fit-again Petersen – who was withdrawn from the Springbok Showdown due a tight achilles tendon – will start on the right wing in the place of the injured Seabelo Senatla (hamstring), while Zas will have the perfect opportunity to resume his Stormers career in fine style when he starts at left wing.
Petersen aside, the other change comes in the front row, where World Cup-winner Bongi Mbonambi starts in the place of Scarra Ntubeni, who will add cover off the bench.
A special challenge the Stormers will have to counter this weekend is of course Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies’ classy cross-kicks. That, and the fact that the receivers are guys you can’t exactly allow to get away from you.
Here is your DHL Stormers team that will run out at DHL Newlands at 19h00 on Saturday to face the Emirates Lions in their opening Vodacom #SuperRugbyUnlocked match of the season. The Faithful will be missed, but you can catch it live on SuperSport. #iamastormer #dhldelivers pic.twitter.com/JlLBHkEM0i
— DHL Stormers (@THESTORMERS) October 15, 2020
While everyone will have to make sure that space is covered on the Newlands pitch tomorrow, the Stormers trio of Gelant, Zas and Petersen will be key in ensuring the Lions’ speedsters don’t finish Jantjies’ magnetic kicks off with a try.
In the few appearances he has made for the Stormers since joining them earlier this year, Gelant has produced solid outings, and his ability to use both boots could also come in handy should he find himself isolated this weekend.
For Zas, making up for lost time after a stunning start to his Super Rugby career in 2016 is a sight, a visual, that nobody would turn down. On paper, there is no area in this team that can be deemed “boring”, but the ammo they have out wide is just something else.
The Stormers lineup:
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Nama Xaba, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Michal Haznar, 23 Tim Swiel