Champions last year, the Stormers sit second in the URC standings, just behind Leinster but with a game in hand, after five league wins in a row.
Franco Smith has reinvigorated Glasgow in recent weeks and they have a formidable home record, going through the whole of 2022 unbeaten in the URC at Scotstoun. Smith played down the achievement, but there is no doubt he has added a harder edge to the team who go into the Stormers game on the back of five consecutive victories in all competitions.
“We have momentum but this is a team that are the league champions and have won eight or nine games already,” said Smith. “They have a lot of Springboks in their side so definitely they are a big challenge.”
The only league points dropped by the Stormers this season came on their last visit to Europe in October when they drew with the Ospreys then lost 30-24 to Cardiff. They also drew 20-20 in Edinburgh last season but Smith thinks their squad is suitably equipped to deal with the rigours of a trip north in wintertime.
“The quality of the players they have and the number of them who are used to playing in Europe nullifies that,” said the coach. “They’ve built up some good momentum coming into this tour. Sometimes you just need a moment for everything to click and I think they’ll be hoping for that against us, to get that away European win. I don’t think the weather conditions are going to be a surprise for them anymore.”
Glasgow were excellent in the second half against Edinburgh at Murrayfield last week, overturning a 12-20 deficit to win 32-25 but Smith has made five changes to his starting XV. Some are enforced, notably in the second row where JP du Preez and Lewis Bean form a new partnership in place of Sintu Manjezi, who injured his knee against Edinburgh, and Richie Gray, who is missing with a slight fever. There is one other change in the pack, with George Turner starting ahead of Fraser Brown who is among the replacements.
In the backs, George Horne is picked at scrum-half after his excellent performance off the bench at Murrayfield, with Ali Price making way. There is also a return for Huw Jones who comes in for Stafford McDowall at inside centre.
Glasgow’s injury list remains long and Murphy Walker is the latest to join, although Smith hopes the prop will recover from a back spasm within days. Of the longer-term casualties, the coach thinks Scott Cummings, Rory Darge, Zander Fagerson and Oli Kebble can return in mid-February. That would rule them out of the start of the Six Nations but they should be back to play some part in the championship.
Before pitting his wits against the Stormers, Smith will be at the DAM Health Stadium on Saturday to watch his son, Franco junior, who is in the Zebre squad to face Edinburgh. “Edinburgh won’t like to see me for a third week in a row, I suppose!” he joked.