Nick Koster has been named to make his Super 14 debut in he unfamiliar position of left wing, as Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus names a strong side to take on the Sharks at Newlands on Saturday.
Fijian Sireli Naqelevuki has failed to recover from a rib injury picked up in the pre-season, leaving a gap on the wing which former loose-forward Koster will be keen to fill on a full-time basis. The balance of the backline has a settled look, with many established combinations that will look to test the Sharks. In fact, all of the other members of the back division are capped Springboks.
Ricky Januarie edges Bolla Conradie at scrumhalf, while Peter Grant is preferred to Willem de Waal at pivot. The latter is not in the 22 at all this week, although that may be due to an ongoing injury concern. Captain Jean de Villiers will look to continue the good understanding he struck up with Gcobani Bobo last year, while Conrad Jantjes and Tonderai Chavanga are ever dangerous, named at fulback and right wing respectively.
The Stormers pack, often their Achilles Heel in recent years, has a strong look to it this year, with JD Moller, Schalk Brits and Brian Mujati retained as the first choice front-row. Together with Adriaan Fondse and Andries Bekker, it’s the same tight five that played for most of last season for the Stormers and one that won’t take a step backwards against the Sharks.
Cheetahs import Duane Vermeulen has won the battle for the number 8 jersey this week; he will join Schalk Burger and Francois Louw in an impressive back row. The controversial Luke Watson will endure an uncomfortable afternoon sitting next to AJ Venter on the substitutes bench. Let’s hope the thought of being in such close proximity to such a big “Dutchman” doesn’t prove more than Watson can handle!
15: Conrad Jantjes, 14. Tonderai Chavhanga, 13. Gcobani Bobo, 12. Jean de Villiers (capt), 11, Nick Koster, 10. Peter Grant, 9. Ricky Januarie, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Francois Louw, 6. Schalk Burger, 5. Andries Bekker, 4. Adriaan Fondse, 3. Brian Mujati, 2. Schalk Brits, 1. JD Moller. Reserves: 16. Deon Fourie, 17. Wicus Blaauw, 18. AJ Venter, 19. Luke Watson, 20. Bolla Conradie, 21. Joe Pietersen, 22. Percy MontgomeryTweet