There are three changes to the DHL Stormers backline and three more amongst the forwards for their clash with the Blues on Saturday morning in Auckland. Damian Willemse comes in at fullback and as a result Dillyn Leyds shifts to left wing, with Dan du Plessis restored in the outside centre position.
The two rotational switches up front sees Jaco Coetzee at No 8 and Wilco Louw back at tighthead prop while in a significant boost for the Cape side fit-again Eben Etzebeth slots into the second row to fill the vacancy left by the injured JD Schickerling, who returned back to SA.
The Capetonians have won six of their last seven meetings against the Auckland side, including the last three in a row. However, the Blues have won two consecutive games after a bumpy start to the season and have their tails up at the moment.
The DHL Stormers will be hoping for another huge defensive effort from the in-form Pieter-Steph du Toit, their Springbok flanker who made 30 tackles in Wellington last week. That tackle performance equaled the tackle count of any player in a single round in the last nine seasons and the towering No 7 has made a combined total of 83 tackles so far this year.
What they said:
Blues coach Leon MacDonald said his side must prepare for a different challenge against the South African visitors: “The DHL Stormers are going to bring a very different challenge than the Highlanders and we must be better if we are to get a positive result.”
DHL Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck said his team is determined to be as clinical as possible in Auckland: “We have got great energy among the group and the players are all keen to get out there and show what we are capable of, so we are looking forward to it. It will be important for us to be composed and focused as we look to keep improving and building our game.”
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Tanielu Tele’a, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman. Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Karl Tu'inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Sonny Bill Williams.
DHL Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Juarno Augustus, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 SP Marais.
Head to head:
Blues won: 10
DHL Stormers: 10
Blues points: 533
DHL Stormers: 504
Average score: 27-25
Date: Saturday, 30 March
SA time: 08h35
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson, Federico Anselmi
Television Match Official: Ben Skeen