Etzebeth named to start but may still miss Hurricanes clash
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck will give experienced lock Eben Etzebeth as long as possible to be fit to face the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.
Etzebeth was named in a starting lineup that showed three changes from the team that beat the Jaguares 35-8 at Newlands last week‚ but still has one final hurdle to clear before being passed fit.
Etzebeth came through four of his concussion protocols after a heavy knock against the Jaguares during last week’s win at Newlands. But he didn’t pass his fifth test on Thursday and will have another test on Friday to see if he has improved.
“We will give Eben another chance to pass his fifth protocol on Friday‚ but he has been looking good in training this week‚” Fleck said from Wellington.
“If he doesn’t go well tomorrow JD Schickerling will start and Salmaan Moerat will come on to the bench.
“It’s not risky because we have followed all the protocols and we have had an extra day to prepare because we played last Friday.
“We’ll make the best medical decision. Eben is keen to play obviously‚ but we will never put the player at risk.
"We are following the medical advice‚ how the player is feeling and the protocols. If he doesn’t pass his test on Friday‚ he doesn’t pass‚ and we have other plans in place.
“Training has gone really well this week‚ despite hanging on for Eben. All the locks have participated and they are prepared for the game.”
As it stands Etzebeth will retain his starting place in the second row alongside Chris van Zyl‚ who steps in for JD Schickerling in a rotational switch. But that could all change.
Hooker Bongi Mbonambi also returns to the starting lineup with Scarra Ntubeni moving on the bench after starting last week.
There is also a change in the backline where outside centre Ruhan Nel is preferred to Daniel du Plessis‚ who is on the bench.
The Hurricanes will be without the All Blacks trio of hooker Dane Coles‚ centre Ngani Laumape and scrumhalf TJ Perenara‚ who have been rested‚ which means an interesting switch for Jordie Barrett to inside centre.
“Doing the analysis on them‚ year-on-year‚ they are an excellent team‚” Fleck said.
“Despite Perenara and Laumape missing out‚ they are still an immensely dangerous side.
“Jordie Barrett at 12 brings a different dynamic because he is an exceptional player with a range of skills. With the Barrett brothers (flyhalf Beauden) running the backline from the 10/12 axis‚ we will have to be at our best.”
Hurricanes – 15 Chase Tiatia‚ 14 Wes Goosen‚ 13 Matt Proctor‚ 12 Jordie Barrett‚ 11 Ben Lam‚ 10 Beauden Barrett (c)‚ 9 Richard Judd‚ 8 Reed Prinsep‚ 7 Ardie Savea‚ 6 Vaea Fifita‚ 5 Liam Mitchell‚ 4 James Blackwell‚ 3 Ben May‚ 2 Ricky Riccitelli‚ 1 Fraser Armstrong.
Reserves: 16 James O’Reilly‚ 17 Xavier Numia‚ 18 Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen‚ 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere‚ 20 Sam Henwood‚ 21 Finlay Christie‚ 22 Fletcher Smith‚ 23 Danny Toala.
Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds‚ 14 Sergeal Petersen‚ 13 Ruhan Nel‚ 12 Damian de Allende‚ 11 SP Marais‚ 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis‚ 9 Herschel Jantjies‚ 8 Juarno Augustus‚ 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ 6 Siya Kolisi (captain)‚ 5 Chris van Zyl‚ 4 Eben Etzebeth‚ 3 Frans Malherbe‚ 2 Bongi Mbonambi‚ 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Reserves: 16 Scarra Ntubeni‚ 17 Corne Fourie‚ 18 Wilco Louw‚ 19 JD Schickerling‚ 20 Jaco Coetzee‚ 21 Justin Phillips‚ 22 Dan du Plessis‚ 23 Damian Willemse.