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Rejuvenated Stormers get front row boost

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Forwards coach Rito Hlungwani confirmed that the Stormers received a much-needed loosehead boost ahead of their United Rugby Championship European tour.

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The Stormers will embark on their two-week tour on Tuesday, where they will take on Dragons at the Rodney Parade this Friday (May 10), before a match against Connacht in Galway the following Saturday (May 18).

With just three games left of the regular season, the two matches are crucial for the inaugural URC champs in their quest for the play-off spot.

They are currently fifth in the standings with 45 points, just one point clear of Connacht (sixth), Ulster (seventh) and Benetton (eighth).

A defeat on Friday could see the Cape Town side drop out of the top eight.

Speaking to reporters, Stormers forwards coach Hlungwani said the schedule including the break did the team well and could be the difference in overcoming the Capetonians’ dismal away form.

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Earlier this season, the Stormers travelled to Europe and failed to secure a win.

They lost all four matches, including a 9-20 loss to current leaders Glasgow Warriors.

“With an off week, we are in a good space.

“We completed most of the preparation last week. It will be mostly about recovery and the captain’s run.

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“The guys had a long weekend to rest, but in terms of preparation we covered everything we need for this Friday.”

He added: “This week we will have enough time to travel and recover so it should put us on a good footing.

“We are playing on Friday, which means we are off on Saturday and Sunday, which allows us to have a full training week before the match in Galway.”

Hlungwani revealed that the Stormers will receive an extra front row boost.

Sti Sithole has been sidelined since March after he sustained an injury against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.

The 31-year-old’s absence was a massive setback for the Stormers, who faced a loosehead crisis after the respective injuries of Lizo Gqoboka, Ali Vermaak, and Kwenzo Blose.

“Sti has been training,” Hlungwani said.

“He stands out because he hasn’t played in a while, but has been training.

“He will be up for selection.”

He added: “Sti has done really, really well.

“I’m not saying that Brok Harris or Kwenzo [Blose] didn’t do well in his absence, but we are happy he is back at training.

“His scrum work especially. When he’s in there, he competes well. He wins a lot of penalties. He operates well with Neethling [Fouche], Frans [Malherbe] and the hookers.

“He is a big gain for us, going into the business end of the competition.

“We are happy to have him back. We want him fit, so he can push to play 60 minutes. That’s our next job, to get him game fit again.”

The Stormers will reveal their 27-man touring squad on Tuesday.

 

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