Crunch time for Stormers

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For the second successive match, Nizaam Carr is the only player to retain his place in the starting line-up as Coetzee has undone the selection of a second-string side for the league-phase finale against the Sharks in Durban last week.

In stark contrast, Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has stuck with exactly the same side that went down 37-24 in Canberra in the last round of league play.

Unlike his Brumbies counterpart, Coetzee made use of the opportunity presented by a dead-rubber at King’s Park to rest the majority of the front-line troops who have now been recalled and tasked with marching the Stormers to their first play-off victory at home in three attempts since 2010.

The Sharks prevailed 34-12 over the Stormers, but Coetzee believes that the rest-investment will pay off.

“Last week worked out well,” the Stormers coach said at the team announcement press conference at Newlands.

“It was the end of the round-robin phase and that result was going to have nothing to do with the next phase of the competition which is the play-off stage.

“A number of players, such as Michael Rhodes and Jaco Tatue got game time (in Durban), while others had some time off, and that was all part of the plan to keep momentum.”

Rested stalwarts, such as fullback Cheslin Kolbe and centre Damian de Allende, have been recalled after being given time off for the first time this season, and the return of flanker Schalk Burger and lock Eben Etzebeth has restored the pack to full strength – or at least the strongest available unit in the absence of skipper Duane Vermeulen who will miss his third match in a row with a neck injury.

Centre Juan de Jongh has reclaimed the captaincy from Carr who will again run out at No 8.

“You only get one shot,” De Jongh said several times, underlining the responsibility of the Stormers leadership group to bring their experience to bear in this do-or-die clash.

“I was lucky enough to be in three (Super Rugby) play-offs since 2010. There are a lot of guys who have similar experience, and we all know it takes a lot of hard work to be in the play-offs. We know it’s a once-off opportunity, and we’re playing against a classy team.

“In knockout games, you only get three, four or five opportunities (to score) and, when you’re in those situations, you need to make sure you’re focused enough to be clinical.

“We have to make sure we back each other whatever decisions we take and I’m going to need all our senior players to back me up.”

Larkham used the term “Test-match intensity” to describe the anticipated ferocity of the contest and Coetzee agreed emphatically.

“Absolutely, it will be like a Test match, because we’ll be tested in all departments,” said the Stormers coach. “Physicality, physicality and physicality... that is what is massively important when it comes to Test rugby.”

Coetzee was confident that the drive to produce a full-frontal assault for 80 minutes, against a Brumbies team that jetted in to town from Australia on Monday night, will be sustained by a quality bench.

Hooker Scarra Ntubeni passed a fitness test on a calf injury to end his two-game absence, while enforcer lock Jean Kleyn and hard-running blindside flanker Michael Rhodes are sure to provide punch off the wood.

“When it comes to the play-offs, you need a bench that can make an impact,” added Coetzee. “You need a bench that can play a massive role in the last 20 minutes because it’s going to be really physically taxing on players, and to have a bench that can impose an impact is key.

“Jean Kleyn is exactly one of those kinds of players... and Michael Rhodes will definitely play a part in the game. The battle will be intense at the breakdown, at the maul and making hits.

“Tackle fight is the most important thing on defence for me this weekend, and all those elements require physicality.”

Teams:

Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Juan de Jongh (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Michael Rhodes, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Jaco Taute

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Robbie Coleman, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Nic White, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Blake Enever, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (captain), 1 Scott Sio. Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 James Dargaville

Referee: Jaco Peyper (SA) - Cape Argus

Original source: Crunch time for Stormers

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