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Monday, November 28, 2022

Junior Springbok centre Suleiman Hartzenberg to start for Stormers against Connacht

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Cape Town — He thrilled the junior rugby scene last season, and now Suleiman Hartzenberg is set to “chill with the big boys” when he lines up at outside centre for the Stormers in Saturday’s United Championship clash against Connacht in Stellenbosch (2.30pm kickoff).

The Junior Springbok star was outstanding in the Summer Series tournament in Italy, where he operated in midfield and on the wing in the SA Under-20s’ unbeaten campaign.

Hartzenberg was a schoolboy stand-out for Bishops and made his entry into senior rugby by excelling for the University of Cape Town in the Varsity Cup earlier this year.

The powerfully-built strike-runner has been part of the Stormers’ pre-season squad over the last few months as well, and wore the No 13 jersey in the recent friendly against the Sharks in Gqeberha after scoring four tries in their first warm-up match against SWD Eagles in George – following injuries to Ruhan Nel (neck) and Juan de Jongh (ankle) – and he is likely to partner Dan du Plessis in midfield against Connacht.

“Ruhan won’t be available this weekend. That gives us an opportunity to have a look at some exciting players who have been with us for pre-season, and now they will have an opportunity to measure themselves,” Stormers assistant coach Dawie Snyman said during a press conference on Monday.

And now head coach John Dobson said during an interview on the SuperRugby TV programme on KykNet on Monday night that the 19-year-old Hartzenberg – the younger brother of Griquas wing Munier – will be part of the starting XV against Connacht on Saturday.

Blitzbok speedster Angelo Davids also provides extra depth out wide, and Dobson is excited about some of the youngsters coming through.

Willemse is out of Saturday’s Springbok Test against Argentina due to concussion, while the Stormers are unlikely to push Salmaan Moerat and Joseph Dweba into action immediately after they were released from the Bok squad on Monday.

“We’ve got some amazing young talent. It’s probably a year too early for them, but I can tell you names like Suleiman Hartzenberg – who will start this weekend at centre… You will remember him from the Under-20 games,” Dobson told presenter and former Bok lock Kobus Wiese.

“For some reason, Western Province had nine out of the 15 that played against Wales. We’ve got Connor Evans, a young lock; Imad Khan at scrumhalf is probably one of the better players I’ve coached in my life.

“Sacha Mngomezulu (flyhalf) is really one to watch. For me, he’s like a complete clone of Damian Willemse, like to every degree – physical, competitive, detail, kicking game, step, offload and mentality.”

Meanwhile, the Stormers announced yesterday that they have signed Samoan international centre Alapati Leiua for the new season.

The 33-year-old Leiua played Super Rugby for the Hurricanes for many years, before moving to Europe to feature for Wasps and the Bristol Bears in England.

He has also earned 31 Test caps for Samoa, and played four matches for his country at the 2019 Cup in Japan.

Dobson said in a statement yesterday that Leiua will be a key role in helping to develop the young midfielders at the Stormers.

“Alapati is a proven performer who will give us a hard edge in midfield, while also mentoring some of the talented youngsters we have here,” Dobson said.

“We saw the huge influence Jamie Roberts had in a short time here two years ago, and we are expecting Alapati to play a similar role for us this season.

“We are looking forward to seeing the impact he makes here both on and off the field.”

Leiua said: “We all saw this team play some incredible rugby last season, and I want to add to that with my skills.

“This is a great chance to work with some talented young players and experience a completely new rugby culture, so I can’t wait to get stuck in.”

The full Stormers team will be announced on Friday.

@ashfakmohamed

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