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Coach Robbie Fleck has opted to play the second rower out of position – a ploy that failed at Test level‚ most famously when the Springboks lost to Japan at the 2015 Rugby World Cup – in the absence of captain Siya Kolisi.
The regular skipper is out of this match due to Springbok resting protocols and as a result Fleck made a surprising selection.
Regular blindside flank Cobus Wiese‚ who has been impressive in his brief outings this season‚ is fit. But instead of starting the youngster‚ Fleck has asked Du Toit to fulfil a role that he’s familiar with‚ even if not entirely comfortable.
“With Siya out we needed a big ball carrier and with the setpiece threat the Crusaders bring‚ Pieter-Steph answers a few questions for us in that role‚” Fleck said from Auckland where the team are based.
“The Crusaders are a direct side and we struggled with momentum against the Lions last week‚ so hopefully Pieter-Steph can bring something.
“I don’t see it as a risky selection. The Crusaders present certain threats and we need to counter them. We had a long selection meeting but with Cobus coming back from injury‚ we needed to get the balance of the loose trio right for this game and we think we have.
“Siya had to be rested by next week‚ so we chose to do it now. He stayed behind in SA and spent a bit more time with his family. He will be in NZ on Saturday.
“We want a full strength side next week against the Highlanders so we chose to do it way.”
In-form fullback SP Marais will also miss the match with a groin strain‚ which means Dillyn Leyds moves from wing to fullback‚ allowing Springbok Bjorn Basson to start on the left wing.
At scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage‚ who missed last week’s 29-16 loss to the Lions due to rotation‚ starts with Jano Vermaak slipping down to the bench.
“It is a tactical decision to start with Dewaldt‚” Fleck said.
“With SP out we needed another left-footed kicker in the team.
“Both scrumhalves are playing exceptionally well‚ but we will need to compensate for SP’s left foot.”
With Kolisi out‚ lock Eben Etzebeth will captain the side‚ in what will be a massive test of character for the Stormers coming off their first loss of the season last week.
The Stormers have never beaten the Crusaders in New Zealand.
The seven-time champions also boast an incredible record at home against SA teams‚ having won 45 out of the 50 clashes with only three defeats. There have been two draws.
Both those draws and one loss happened in 1996 and 1997. In the last 20 years the Crusaders have only lost two matches at home against SA opposition. The Stormers have a mountain to climb.
“Those are impressive stats aren’t they?” Fleck said.
“They have a great culture and coach Scot Robertson has instilled simple but effective tactics.
“It’s a huge challenge‚ but that’s what excites us. It would be one for the history books.”
15 Dillyn Leyds‚ 14 Cheslin Kolbe‚ 13 EW Viljoen‚ 12 Dan du Plessis‚ 11 Bjorn Basson‚ 10 Robert du Preez‚ 9 Dewaldt Duvenage‚ 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe‚ 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ 6 Nizaam Carr‚ 5 Chris van Zyl‚ 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain)‚ 3 Wilco Louw‚ 2 Bongi Mbonambi‚ 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels‚ 17 Oli Kebble‚ 18 Frans Malherbe‚ 19 Jan de Klerk‚ 20 Cobus Wiese‚ 21 Jano Vermaak‚ 22 Kurt Coleman‚ 23 Dan Kriel. - TMG Digital/TMG Sport