Stormers captain Schalk Burger has opted to get his annual injury leave in early this season and will miss his side’s warm-up game against the Western Force on Saturday.
The Springbok star has been forced to withdraw due to a haematoma, handing the captaincy to Bok lock Andries Bekker. Pieter Myburgh will occupy the number 6 jersey that we’re told will be Burger’s sole preserve this season. Despite shining on the open side last year, Francois Louw looks set to play on the closed side of the scrum this year, with Duane Vermeulen preferred at number 8. The front row of Wicus Blaauw, Tiaan Liebenberg and Brok Harris pretty much picks itself, but there’s a bit of a shock a row further back, as young De Kock Steenkamp has been picked ahead of former Lion Anton van Zyl.
Van Zyl will be part of an extended bench that also includes former Sharks age-group player, Jacques “Chabal” Potgieter.
The backline has a fairly predictable look, with the big news being the inclusion of star signings Bryan Habana and Jaque Fourie at 11 and 13 respectively. The unavailability of Willem de Waal (recovering from a long-term neck injury) means that Peter Grant will play flyhalf, with the impressive young Juan de Jongh partnering Fourie in the centres. Dewald Duvenage’s stranglehold on the number 9 jersey continues, while Gio Aplon and Joe Pietersen will look to carry their strong Currie Cup form into the Super 14.
SA Under 20 player of the year in 2009, flyhalf Lionel Cronjé, will be on the bench, together with Stormers veterans in Bolla Conradie and the useless Fijian. A Western Province Invitational XV will play against Stellenbosch University in the curtain-raiser.
Stormers – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6, Pieter Myburgh, 5 Andries Bekker (capt), 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Subs: Deon Fourie, JC Kritzinger, JD Moller, Anton van Zyl, Jacques Potgieter, Pieter Louw, Bolla Conradie, Lionel Cronje, Sireli Naqelevuki, JJ Engelbrecht.
WP Invitational XV (to play Maties) – 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Fabien Juries, 13 Frikkie Welsh (capt), 12 Paul Bosch, 11 JJ Engelbrecht, 10 Conrad Hoffmann, 9 Bolla Conradie, 8 Yaya Hartzenburg, 7 Pieter Louw, 6 Boetie Britz, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Ryno Elstadt, 3 Esuiebo Guianaza, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JD Moller.
Subs : Sydney Tobias, Hein van der Merwe, Stephan Greef, Dustin Jinka, Hilton Lobberts, Liam Slatem, Jody Burch, Stokkies Hanekom, Tim Whitehead, Denzil Riddles.