FRANCO SMITH has made five changes to the starting XV from last weekend’s victory over Edinburgh ahead of Sunday’s URC clash against the Stormers at Scotstoun.
In the backline, Huw Jones lines up against his old team at inside-centre in place of Stafford McDowall, while George Horne replaces Ali Price at scrum-half.
Meanwhile, in the pack, George Turner gets the nod ahead of Fraser Brown at hooker, and it is all change in the second-row with Lewis Bean and JP Du Preez foreign a heavy weight partnership with the Richie Gray and Sintu Manjezi dropping out of the match-day squad (as it stands).
“Richie had an ingrown hair removed but it got infected and that led to him developing a little bit of a fever so we thought we will see him recover closer to Saturday, but obviously there was a doubt,” explained Smith after yesterday’s team announcement. “Obviously, he is important for us now but also going forward, so we will make a final decision on Sunday morning but at this stage the team is as announced.”
Smith then explained that Manjezi is expected to be out until mid-February with a knee injury, but the prognosis for tight-head prop Murphy Walker – a Scotland hopeful for the Six Nations, especially as Zander Fagerson is set to miss the start of the championship with a hamstring injury – is less serious.
“Murphy pulled up with a spasm in his back last week and that evolved to him losing power in his right arm,” explained the coach. “It is a bit of inflammation that has to go down. He is slowly and surely getting back but not yet available for this week. We are talking days [to get back fit] rather than weeks. He trained today but can’t lift in the line-outs or scrum.”
Meanwhile, youngsters Alex Samuel and Euan Ferrie will provide second-row and back-row cover from the bench on Sunday
Warriors have not lost at home since last January and they are on the hunt for their sixth consecutive win – home or away – in all competitions, but face their biggest challenge of that streak to date against last season’s URC champions.
This is the first time the South African franchise have visited Glasgow and they have come almost fully-loaded, although they may be feeling some of the aftereffects of a mammoth 40-hour journey to Scotland (a consequence of SA Rugby’s travel arrangement with Qatar Airways which requires flights to come through Doha).
“We have momentum, but this is a team that are the league champions and they have won eight, drawn one and lost just one of their nine games so far in the URC this season, plus they also have a lot of Springboks in their side so definitely they are a big challenge.” said Smith, who made it clear that he thinks soaring expectations are the biggest threat his in-form side faces at the moment.
“We don’t want to look back,” he continued. “We treat every game in the present and think about what we are going to do in the future. I don’t want us to burden ourselves with expectation because I think that’s the one thing that will limit our performances.
“You could see in the first half against Edinburgh last weekend because we were a little bit off it, and I put that down to the expectation of guys not wanting to disappoint.
“So, I’d rather that we did not talk about us maintaining a record at home. We have the Stormers in front of us and we, as a Glasgow team, still need to get better if we want to compete for this competition, so we’ve got to concentrate on that and not be distracted by trying to maintain records.”
Glasgow Warriors (v Stromers at Scotstoun, Sunday 8th January, kick-off 3pm): O Smith: S Cancelliere, S Tuipulotu, H Jones, K Steyn©; T Jordan, G Horne; J Bhatti, G Turner, L Sordoni, L Bean, J Du Preez, M Fagerson, S Vailanu, J Dempsey. Substitutes: F Brown, N McBeth, S Berghan, A Samuel, E Ferrie, C Neild, A Price, D Miotti.
Stormers: C Blommetjies; S Hartzenberg, D du Plessis, DWillemse, L Zas; M Libbok, P de Wet; S Kitshoff©, J Deba, N Fouche, B Dixon, M Orie, D Fourie, W Engelbrecht, H Dayimani. Substitutes: J Kotze, B Harris, S Sandi, C Evans, J Pokomela, M Theunissen, I Khan, A Davids.
Unavailable for selection: Gregor Brown (foot), Scott Cummings (foot), Rory Darge (ankle), Allan Dell (calf), Zander Fagerson (hamstring), Oli Kebble (shoulder), Jack Mann (head), Enrique Pieretto (chest), Ross Thompson (ankle), Murphy Walker (neck), Ryan Wilson (knee), Richie Gray (illness), Sintu Manjezi (knee)