Can The Sharks Stop DHL Stormers’ Pack Of Forwards?

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The Cell C Sharks will be hunting a return to the summit of the PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA when they host the DHL Stormers in Durban in the fourth round today @ 13h00.

In expected wet conditions expect the battle upfront to be extremely physical where the Stormers are the favourites to dominate. The battle between the loose trios, however, should be vital in determining the winner today.

Sean Everitt's men were well beaten by a rampant Vodacom Bulls side last weekend and they will be eager to bounce back to winning ways against their coastal rivals in this early afternoon fixture.

The DHL Stormers, meanwhile, arrive on the back of a dramatic late victory in their clash with the Emirates Lions last weekend, who were downed by a last-gasp penalty from Tim Swiel in a 10-try thriller in Johannesburg.

Towering lock Reniel Hugo scored a hat-trick of tries as the Durbanites recovered from a 23-7 deficit to snatch a win 33-30 when these sides met in Cape Town in the opening round.

The Cape side has been involved in another two tight affairs since then, losing 20-16 to Jake White's team before downing the Highvelders 39-37, but they have not won back-to-back away games since beating the Toyota Cheetahs and the Bulls in Vodacom Super Rugby in July 2017.

The head-to-head record between these sides is fairly even, with the coastal Sharks edging it with 18 victories from 32 fixtures, although the Capetonians are heading to a venue where the hosts have won their last eight matches.

Sean Everitt has made three personnel changes and one positional switch to last week’s team with JJ van der Mescht earning a start and hard-working Ruben van Heerden playing off the bench.

After rupturing a patella tendon against the Vodacom Bulls, Sikhumbuzo Notshe has unfortunately been ruled out of action for a few months, which has necessitated a re-jig of the loose-forward trio. Henco Venter moves to eighthman with Thembelani Bholi taking his place on the side of the scrum.

In the final change, Marius Louw returns to the side and takes over from Jeremy Ward at centre.

“The guys are proud, they have a lot of fight in them,” said Everitt.

“Despite last week’s loss, there is still a lot of rugby to be played, we have three games and it starts with our come-back this Saturday and we’re certainly not out of the race.”

Meanwhile, the DHL Stormers have been bolstered by the return of JD Schickerling and Marvin Orie (locks), Pieter-Steph du Toit (flanker) and Ruhan Nel (centre) for their visit to Durban.

Locks JD Schickerling and Marvin Orie, flank Pieter-Steph du Toit and centre Ruhan Nel are all back in the starting line-up for the coastal clash.

Orie missed out last week due to concussion protocols, while Schickerling has recovered from an ankle injury to take his place in the second row behind the unchanged all-Springbok front row of captain Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi and Frans Malherbe.

Du Toit is back after being rested last week and forms a loose trio with Willie Engelbrecht and Evan Roos.

Nel has returned after spending the last two weeks with the Springboks Sevens team and is in midfield in the only backline change.

DHL Stormers head coach John Dobson said that there has been an emphasis on executing the gameplan as accurately as possible this week.

“We want to make the best use of the opportunities that we create, which means that we must be focused and as accurate as possible in everything that we do,” reckons Dobson.

“All of the players coming in this week have played a role in this campaign already and we are looking forward to a cohesive team performance.”

Cell C Sharks: 15. Aphelele Fassi, 14. Sbu Nkosi, 13. Lukhanyo Am (C), 12. Marius Louw, 11. Yaw Penxe, 10. Curwin Bosch, 9. Jaden Hendrikse, 8. Henco Venter, 7. Thembelani Bholi, 6. Siya Kolisi, 5. Reniel Hugo, 4. JJ van der Mescht, 3. Thomas du Toit, 2. Fez Mbatha, 1. Ox Nche. Replacements: 16. Kerron van Vuuren, 17. Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18. Wiehahn Herbst, 19. Ruben van Heerden, 20. Phepsi Buthelezi, 21. Sanele Nohamba, 22. Manie Libbok, 23. Werner Kok.

DHL Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Abner van Reenen, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Willie Engelbrecht, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain). Replacements (from): 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Adre Smith, 21 Juarno Augustus, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Tim Swiel, 24 Marcel Theunissen, 25 Dan du Plessis.