Stormers young guns set to strut their stuff against Sharks

Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu in action for Western Province

File. The Stormers will have a new, but exciting midfield partnership between utility backs Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (pictured) and Suleiman Hartzenberg. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 17, 2024


The Stormers will get a glimpse of their future at flyhalf and in the midfield with three rookies set to man these important positions in their United Rugby Championship (URC) clash with the Sharks.

In their return coastal derby in Durban on Saturday (kickoff 5:05 pm), Jurie Matthee steps in for Manie Libbok, while the Stormers will also have a new, but exciting midfield partnership between utility backs Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Suleiman Hartzenberg.

The rookie midfielders will come up against the experience of Springboks Francois Venter and Lukhanyo Am, but they’ve shown plenty of promise to be able to deal with the threat Venter and Am bring.

Matthee will make his URC debut after featuring at flyhalf for the first time in the Champions Cup against Leicester Tigers where he showed some good early signs as the generals.

Time to shine

“It’s time for them to shine now, they must go,” Stormers assistant coach Dawie Snyman said about what is expected of the youngsters.

“We are very excited about the three of them playing next to each other. Unfortunately, Dan (Du Plessis) had a small injury on Tuesday at training so the side would probably have looked a little bit different. But Sacha has played most of his rugby for us at inside centre and Jurie has gone nicely at flyhalf the chances he had. We are excited for them to show what they can do.

“We are also relying on Warrick (Gelant), Ben (Loader), Zassie (Leolin Zas), and Paul de Wet (scrumhalf) as well.”

Captain Neethling Fouche also had a chat with them before Saturday and said although they are young, they have been in the system for a while, and they know what is expected.

Snyman added that Matthee will bring something different to the game with his playing style, and the team will adapt to that. But there are aspects of his game close to that of Libbok.

“He (Matthee) is aggressive going to the line and plays shallowly like Manie. So the guys next to him won’t have that big adjustment to make. He must just play his game, and we won’t want him to do things Manie does. Against Leicester, he showed what he can do under pressure. That is what we expect. It’s an SA derby that is played under massive pressure.”

Despite the youngsters stepping in at the back, the Stormers will welcome back some senior forwards.

Evan Roos will take up the number seven jersey, combining with fellow loosies Hacjivah Dayimani and opensider Marcell Theunissen. Bok hooker Joseph Dweba will play between Fouche and loosehead Ali Vermaak.

Moerat returns

Regular captain Salmaan Moerat will make a return off the bench after recovering from a pectoral injury.

“It’s good to have someone like Salmaan back. I felt sorry for him after he worked hard to recover from his knee injury to return and pick up the pectoral injury.”

There is also a debut on the cards for the exciting Wandisile Simelane, who recently moved from the Bulls to the former URC champions. But there is still no sign of tighthead prop Frans Malherbe.

According to Snyman, the Bok stalwart was not considered for the match but is close to being roped in again.

It’s been a month of no competitive rugby, and the Stormers will hope the friendlies over the last couple of weeks can help them find some early fluency.

Starting the run-in to the knockouts with a loss can be detrimental to their ambitions of ending amongst the top four teams with an eye on a home playoff match.

Stormers XV: 15. Warrick Gelant, 14. Ben Loader, 13. Suleiman Hartzenberg, 12. Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, 11. Leolin Zas, 10. Jurie Matthee, 9. Paul de Wet, 8. Hacjivah Dayimani, 7. Evan Roos, 6. Marcel Theunissen, 5. Ruben van Heerden, 4. Adre Smith, 3. Neethling Fouche (captain), 2. Joseph Dweba, 1. Ali Vermaak.

Replacements: 16. Andre-Hugo Venter, 17. Sti Sithole, 18. Brok Harris, 19. Salmaan Moerat, 20. Ben-Jason Dixon, 21. Herschel Jantjies, 22. Wandisile Simelane, 23. Angelo Davids.


IOL Sport