Salman Moerat set for debut as injuries ravage Stormers
The Stormers suffered more bad news on the injury front when emerging star flank Cobus Wiese failed a fitness test for Friday’s match against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
The 20-year-old had a huge game against the Crusaders last week‚ where he made 11 tackles‚ one line break and carried for 84m‚ mostly in close quarters. But he was unable to shake off a shoulder injury in time.
The Stormers had already lost influential lock JD Schickerling for the match, while Pieter-Steph du Toit is on the bench with flyhalf George Whitehead after taking a heavy knock during the 45-28 loss to the Crusaders. He is still going through concussion protocols.
Lock Salman Moerat is set for his debut off the bench as Schickerling’s replacement.
In all‚ coach Robbie Fleck has made five changes to the starting line-up for another tough test of the team’s character and skill.
"Cobus was our man of the match against the Crusaders‚" Fleck said. "For a 20-year-old to deliver a performance like that in New Zealand is unbelievable. He stuck his hand up as a potential Springbok."
The only change to the backline sees Dillyn Leyds move back to wing to make way for the returning Damian Willemse‚ while Seabelo Senatla is ruled out due to a groin strain and JJ Engelbrecht providing cover among the replacements.
Up front Kobus van Dyk will start at blindside flank in Wiese’s absence. There is a new lock pairing in Jan de Klerk and Chris van Zyl.
The only change to the front row sees Steven Kitshoff back in the starting XV‚ with JC Janse van Rensburg on the bench.
"We back whoever comes into the squad regardless of their experience‚" Fleck said about Moerat. "We have backed youngsters such as Damian Willemse last year and Steven Kitshoff a few years ago.
"Salman is good enough‚ he is mature in his outlook and his game is improving all the time. He has a lot of ambition.
"Obviously losing two top locks [Schickerling and Eben Etzebeth] is not ideal but you have to get on with it," Fleck said. "Last week’s performance from the forwards was outstanding and we expect the young guys to step up again."
With all the injury-enforced changes, the Stormers’ chances of ending a nine-match losing streak in NZ against the Highlanders are slim.