Stormers hire hooker Brits to play flanker

Depleted Super Rugby semifinalists Western Stormers signed Schalk Brits on loan from English club Saracens on Monday and then promised not to play him in his familiar hooker position.

The former Springbok will be among the seven replacements for a showdown with seven-time southern hemisphere championship title holders Canterbury Crusaders of New Zealand at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.

But coach Allister Coetzee stressed that Brits would come on as an “impact player” and not as a hooker because this was a condition of the loan being approved by Super Rugby organisers Sanzar.

“We will use him only as a loose forward. I view the role of the players on the bench as important—they are not there just to come on if a teammate is injured,” Coetzee told reporters.

“Schalk has similiar attributes to our loose forwards and if you saw him play for Saracens, the role he filled when coming on was similar to that of a flanker.”

Injuries have ruled out number eight Duane Vermeulen and flank Pieter Louw and the weekend mugging in the south-west city of young reserve loose forward Siya Kolisi was the last straw.

“Siya was the victim of an unfortunate incident in which he was mugged and sustained injuries to his head and concussion and cannot be considered for the semi-final,” said Coetzee.

Normal backup loose forward Nick Koster is expected to replace Springbok 2011 Rugby World Cup candidate Vermeulen for a match that will attract a sell-out 45000 crowd to the Test venue.

Crusaders, who qualified for the semifinals with a 36-8 home victory over Coastal Sharks last Saturday, will be able to field a much stronger side than that which defeated the Stormers by six points in Cape Town a month ago.

Captain and flanker Richie McCaw, locks Sam Whitelock and Brad Thorn, fly-half Dan Carter and scrum-half Andy Ellis missed that game through injury and wing Sean Maitland and fullback Israel Dagg had to retire hurt before half-time.

Replacement fullback Adam Whitelock and stand-in scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali’i also had to leave the field during the first half of a bruising battle settled by two tries from prop Wyatt Crockett.

All except long-term casualty Dagg will be available for Crusaders and the other semifinal will be staged earlier Saturday in Brisbane between Queensland Reds and Auckland Blues.—AFP

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