Champions Cup: Stuart Hogg back from injury for Exeter Chiefs, while Stormers’ Ruhan Nel hits 50

Colin Newboult

Winners from the 2019/20 campaign, Exeter Chiefs, will seek to make their first semi-final since that triumph when they face the Stormers at Sandy Park on Saturday.

Exeter have largely kept faith with the squad which defeated Montpellier on try countback after a 33-33 draw last weekend.

Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter has made two alterations to the squad for the game with the Stormers.

The sole change to the starting line-up sees winger Olly Woodburn – who was withdrawn late in the day last week – return at the expense of Rory O’Loughlin.

The only other change comes on the bench where the experienced Stuart Hogg is fit again after an ankle injury and replaces Josh Hodge.

Saturday’s match will also mark a 50th Champions Cup appearance for Chiefs and Scotland lock, Jonny Gray.

“I said to the lads in the first meeting this week, I’m only going to keep saying the same things to you,” Baxter said. “I am not going to try and change what I’m asking from you each week. I expect you to work hard, commit to one another, sacrifice a bit for one another and make ourselves hard to beat.

“We’ve talked a lot about that and also our emotional alignment and how we want to feel about one another after the game. For me, that is it! I’ve not tried to make it any more complicated than that because it then allows us as coaches to put a plan in place and we get on with stuff.

“Now, what I want to see is that is the baseline for us moving forward together. We need to be comfortable with last week’s performance being a baseline because performances like last week have been the foundation for a lot of our success over the years. Yes, we could easily have lost had we knocked the ball on or whatever, but if you get that baseline you start to win games.”

Milestone for Ruhan Nel

Centre Ruhan Nel will play his 50th Stormers match in the Champions Cup quarter-final against Exeter.

Nel reaches the milestone in the knockout clash, which takes place on Saturday.

The Stormers backline is unchanged from the combination that started the Round of 16 match against Harlequins last week, while there are just two changes to the forward pack.

Player of the match in the 32-28 victory in Cape Town, Deon Fourie, has been ruled out with a fractured cheekbone, so his place at openside flank is taken by Junior Pokomela.

The only other change sees Marcel Theunissen start at the back of the scrum, with Hacjivah Dayimani set to make an impact from the replacements bench.

Head coach John Dobson said that his team will leave it all out on the field at Sandy Park in a bid to qualify for the semi-final.

“This is a huge knock-out match, so we have to give it a full tilt,” Dobson said.

“Exeter have a great record at home, so we know it will take a full effort from all 23 to get the result we need on Saturday.”

Prediction: Stormers by 7

The teams:

Exeter: 15 Tom Wyatt, 14 Jack Nowell (c), 13 Henry Slade, 12 Sean O’Brien, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Will Becconsall, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Christ Tshiunza, 6 Jannes Kirsten, 5 Dafydd Jenkins, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Marcus Street, 2 Dan Frost, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Nika Abuladze, 18 Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19 Aidon Davis, 20 Dave Ewers, 21 Tom Cairns, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Stuart Hogg

Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Suleiman Hartzenberg, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Daniel du Plessis, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Marcel Theunissen, 7 BJ Dixon, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ernst van Rhyn, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Steven Kitshoff (c)
Replacements: 16 JJ Kotze, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Gary Porter, 20 Willie Engelbrecht, 21 Hacjivah Dayimani, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Clayton Blommetjies

Date: Saturday, April 8
Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 17:30 BST (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Ludovic Cayre (France), Jonathan Gasnier (France)
TMO: Thomas Charabas (France)

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