Coach Robbie Fleck said after practice in Bellville on Thursday that Etzebeth, who has missed the last five games due to a calf injury, will give the forwards a significant boost in what is expected to be a highly physical battle in Pretoria (7.20pm kickoff).
Young Bulls lock pair RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins have caught the eye in a robust pack and would want to stand their ground against a Bok duo such as Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit.
“It’s great to have Eben back. Just his presence around the HPC – to have his name on the team-sheet, great Springbok, a world-class player. He makes contributions in team meetings, and is a big part of our team,” Fleck said.
“That is not to say that JD Schickerling and Rynhardt Elstadt didn’t do well at No 4, as Rynhardt formed a strong partnership with Pieter-Steph du Toit. But Eben is a world-class player.”
Etzebeth is one of six expected changes in what is arguably the strongest team barring injury, with Leolin Zas back from suspension at wing in place of Johnny Kotze, who moves to outside centre for the injured captain Juan de Jongh.
Huw Jones can feel a bit hard done by to not get an opportunity at No 13, but is likely to come in the second half as he also covers fullback.
Nic Groom replaces Louis Schreuder at scrumhalf, while in the front row, Oli Kebble and Bongi Mbonambi get starts again as JC Janse van Rensburg is injured and Scarra Ntubeni drops to the bench.
The loose trio is re-jigged once more, with Nizaam Carr shifted to openside flank, while Schalk Burger will operate at No 8.
Springbok centre Damian de Allende will play in his 50th Super Rugby match.
15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.
Bench: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Rynhardt Elstadt, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Huw Jones.
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Original source: Eben back as Stormers ring the changes