After a month on the sidelines, Schalk Burger has returned to lead the Stormers in their Super Rugby clash against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday evening.
Burger recovered from a knee injury just over a week ago but was wrapped in cotton wool in anticipation of what is usually an uncompromising, bruising encounter when the two coastal powers clash.
The loose forward returns in place of ever-improving flanker Pieter Louw who will miss the rest of the season due to a knee injury.
Another change in the pack sees lock Rynhardt Elstadt return from injury at the expense of De Kock Steenkamp who will provide cover on the bench.
In another change, Siyabonga Ntubeni makes way for more experienced hooker Ethienne Reyneke and rookie Gary van Aswegen was preferred to Lionel Cronje on the substitutes’ bench.
Aliister Coetzee, the Stormers’ coach, has no reservations about Burger’s match fitness.
“He’s been on the training field after his injury for a quite a while and we have no doubt that he’ll be up for the match,” said Coetzee.
Burger himself confirmed that he was “100%” fit to play on Saturday.
Coetzee said the Stormers’ chances of success in Durban would depend on their performance in set-pieces, as well as their accuracy at the breakdown play.
Burger said last season’s Currie Cup final defeat in Durban was still fresh in the memory and he felt his side needed to match the Sharks physically.
Team: Gio Aplon; Danie Poolman, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Peter Grant, Dewaldt Duvenhage; Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger; Andries Bekker, Rynardt Elstadt; Brok Harris, Deon Fourie, Wicus Blaauw. Replacements: Ethienne Reyneke, CJ van de Linde, De Kock Steenkamp, Nick Koster, Ricky Januarie, Gary van Aswegen, Juan de Jongh. — Sapa