Tahs primed for Stormers, despite injuries
INJURY UPDATE: The Waratahs forwards are ready to take on the Stormers' monstrous pack, despite injury concerns up front.
The Stormers, albeit a bit 'rusty' (in the words of coach Robbie Fleck), showed what they are capable of with a 28-20 first-round win over the Jaguares at Newlands at the weekend.
The Stormers head to Sydney on Sunday for the start of a three-match Australasian tour - where they will face the Waratahs, Crusaders and Highlanders - without their Springbok hooker.
The Stormers were forced into a late change, before they survived a strong Jaguares fightback in the second half.
Mbongeni Mbonambi withdrew from the matchday squad, with Ramone Samuels starting and Dean Muir playing off the bench.
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck confirmed that Mbonambi suffered a burst appendix and underwent emergency surgery on Friday.
The Tahs have hooker problems of their own.
Damian Fitzpatrick is doubtful ahead of the Sydney-based franchise's season-opener against the Stormers at Allianz Stadium this coming Saturday.
Fitzpatrick suffered a posterior cruciate ligament (knee) injury early in the Waratahs warm-up match against the Rebels last week and will be assessed in coming days by team's medical staff.
If he does not play in the team's first match of the season, there is also doubt over whether the 28-year-old will make the Waratahs' two-match tour of South Africa.
With Wallaby hooker Tolu Latu still making his way back from a shoulder reconstruction, they may be left to rely on Hugh Roach - the most junior among the hookers.
Waratahs assistant Simon Cron said there might be an outside chance of Fitzpatrick being fit in time to face the Stormers.
"Initially when [the injury] happened I thought we were going to have a problem, but the doc [team doctor] and the physios are relatively upbeat about it and they think it's going to be really up to him around whether the pain is restricting him," Cron told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"It's on a case-by-case basis and knowing Fitzy I'm going 70-30, 70 percent yes is my thoughts. I told him he'd be fine."
Starting scrumhalf Nick Phipps is out, still nursing a calf injury, but other than that the Tahs will have the rest of the squad as they look to start on a winning note against the powerful South African team.
Cron was also feeling positive about the prospect of a much-improved performance from the NSW forward pack, the undisputed weak link in the side's 47-5 win against the Rebels last week.
It has been four years since the Waratahs' forwards were known as the most fearsome in Super Rugby.
The 2014 title winners boasted the likes of Wycliff Palu, Jacques Potgieter, Kane Douglas, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Will Skelton up front.
Only Hooper remains from the starting eight, but Cron said the current crop had what it took to carve out a reputation of their own, once they got the basics right.
"Technically and tactically we need to get our roles right so we don't second-guess ourselves or think. If we think we're slow," he told the newspaper.
"I'm a big believer in the fact your forward pack does have to have a level of aggression, especially in the contact zone around ball carries and defence. I would like to see that start to come out in our pack.
"I think every single player can contribute. At the end of the day, you've got to [want to] beat them more than they want to beat you. There's a level of aggression around that in the contact zone. You've got to want to hit them. That has to happen from No.1 to No.8."
Source: Sydney Morning Herald