Stormers can pull a Chelsea
THE Stormers should watch the replay of Chelsea's gritty Champions League performance against Barcelona this week to know that adversity is only a state of mind, after losing another key player for this week's clash against the Force in Perth.
The Cape side had already resigned themselves to meeting the Aussies without inspirational No 8 Duane Vermeulen and sparkling wing Gio Aplon, but now they face the match without Vermeulen's replacement, Nick Koster.
Koster also suffered a knee injury and has come limping home, meaning former SA Under-20 player Nizaam Carr makes his first start in the hooped jersey.
Considering the Stormers have already lost Schalk Burger, they're essentially down to the their second-choice loose trio midway through the campaign. Throw in the wrist injury to centre Jean de Villiers, plus the fact that they're in the fourth week on tour, and the size of the task they face seems larger than anything they've met this season.
The Force are hardly the Barcelona of rugby, but if someone had said in January that the Stormers' loose trio would be Carr, Rynhardt Elstadt and Siya Kolisi by mid-season, most people would have written off their chances.
Those youngsters will be up against outstanding Wallaby openside David Pocock, who will also make life difficult for them. Yet they go into the Force match as slight favourites and still supremely confident of producing a third tour win to maintain their grip on top of the SA conference.
Coach Allister Coetzee's assertion last year that blooding youngsters such as Carr and Kolisi in the Currie Cup would benefit the Stormers in the long run is proving correct.
None of the new men the coach has thrown into Super rugby - and that includes props Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe, lock Eben Etzebeth and scrumhalf Louis Schreuder - has looked out of their depth.
"Despite the injuries, the touring group is in high spirits and is very motivated," Coetzee said. "Our motto for the week is: nothing special has ever been achieved in ideal conditions."
On the positive side, lock Andries Bekker returns after missing last week's win over the Reds. His lower back problems have eased, though it's unlikely they will fully heal until he has a long break.
Despite the Force's own internal problems with coach Richard Harry's departure last week, this has suddenly turned into the second toughest tour match after the one against the Crusaders, which the Stormers lost.