Weakened Stormers tackle 'fearsome' Clermont in Champions Cup

Weakened Stormers tackle 'fearsome' Clermont in Champions Cup

Champions Cup newcomers Stormers will lack five regulars, including Springboks Frans Malherbe, Marvin Orie and Evan Roos, when they face "fearsome" Clermont in France on Saturday.

Evan Roos Stormers

"When Clermont are at home and on fire, they are really fearsome," said Rugby World Cup-winning former Springboks coach Jake White, who spent several seasons in charge of Montpellier.

White now coaches Bulls, who will host another French club, Challenge Cup title-holders Lyon, as South African sides debut in the premier European club competition.

Stormers and South Africa prop Steven Kitshoff agrees with White, telling AFP that "when I played for Bordeaux-Begles it (Clermont) was one of the toughest places to go".

It will not help Stormers' hopes of success that, apart from prop Malherbe, lock Orie and No.8 Roos, they will also miss loose forwards Willie Engelbrecht and Nama Xaba through injury.

Coach John Dobson, who guided the Cape Town outfit to the United Rugby Championship (URC) title last season, shrugged off the blows.

"Making our Champions Cup debut is a special occasion and we want to do justice to our talents," he said.

Dobson can call on three forwards who toured Europe with South Africa last month -- Kitshoff, lock Salmaan Moerat and flanker Deon Fourie.

Out-of-favour Springboks hooker Joseph Dweba is also in a 26-man squad and knows what to expect in France having spent two seasons with Bordeaux.


While Stormers' pack is depleted, they boast an exciting backline, including Damian Willemse, one of the finds of the 2022 Springbok season.

In the absence of injured fly-half Handre Pollard, Willemse was the playmaker in narrow losses to Ireland and France and convincing victories over Italy and England.

The 24-year-old can also play full-back, inside centre, which some coaches consider his best position, and on the wing.

- Bulls look to Goosen -

With recently-capped Springbok Manie Libbok the Stormers' first-choice fly-half, Willemse could start at full-back against Clermont.

Another South Africa versus France showdown pits Bulls against Lyon in Pretoria.

Bulls' preparations have been overshadowed by the disappearance of winger Sibusiso Nkosi, who was found at the home of his father on Monday after going missing for three weeks.

Nkosi, who has made 16 appearances for the Springboks, blamed mental stress for his action, which triggered a nationwide search by police.

Coach White is pinning his hopes of winning on fly-half Johan Goosen, whose previous clubs included Racing 92 and Montpellier.

"If he can play like he did against Cardiff with limited training time, we are excited about what Johan can do," said the coach after a 45-9 triumph over the Welsh in the URC last weekend.

Goosen spent most of this year sidelined by injuries, which forced him out of the Springboks tour to Europe.

Sharks are the only South African debutants not facing French opponents this weekend -- they host English club Harlequins before playing in Bordeaux next Friday.

The Durban franchise fired coach Sean Everitt last week after a 35-0 URC loss at home to Cardiff and replaced him with their director of rugby and former national sevens team coach Neil Powell.

Powell has won the approval of World Cup-winning Springboks captain and flanker Siya Kolisi, who described the coach as "an honest and direct man who gets stuck in with the boys".

Kolisi is among six current Springboks who could confront the Harlequins, but prop Thomas du Toit misses out after being sent off against England two weeks ago.


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