The DHL Stormers will travel to Dublin without the services of veteran midfielder Ruhan Nel, but have welcomed back their Springboks for the first time in a month as the defending champions look to push unbeaten Leinster.
John Dobson confirmed that Nel, who started in DHL Western Province’s win over the Vodacom Bulls in the Currie Cup, will miss Friday night’s top-of-the-table clash as he has been granted paternity leave as he awaits the birth of his first child.
This means that the Stormers will field a new centre pairing in their first-ever outing at the RDS Arena.
With Damian Willemse among the Springboks back in the squad, it is likely that the Stormers could opt to partner the playmaker with Dan du Plessis in midfield. In that case, Clayton Blommetjies, fresh from a man-of-the-match performance against the Vodacom Bulls, would start at fullback and Manie Libbok at flyhalf.
The Stormers could also keep Willemse at fullback and field either one of youngsters Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu or Suleiman Hartzenberg next to Du Plessis.
Dobson confirmed that while the Stormers would field all of their available Springboks against Leinster, they are looking at that match as more of a warm-up for their upcoming Champions Cup last-16 clash against Harlequins in Cape Town.
“If we think romantically, we could try and beat Leinster. But the truth is, those guys [the Boks] haven’t played for almost two months,” Dobson said.
“So, it’s more a game of us getting ready for Harlequins [in the Champions Cup next weekend] which is a great occasion. Whether we can go further in the European Cup, I don’t know. But we will hopefully have 50 000 people at Cape Town Stadium for our first home European knockout match and it will be very special for us.
“We offered the Springboks the choice of going to Durban [to face the Sharks on Sunday] to rather use the Currie Cup to get ready, but they said they really want to get integrated and they want to go to Leinster, which is great.
“I do suspect we will be a bit rusty. We will run in the red this week, but hopefully it will get us ready for Harlequins and Munster.
“We do not have a home URC semi-final yet, we have to win two of our last three games. But if we can pick up one or two points against Leinster, it will certainly help us.”
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