Springbok star Duane Vermeulen will captain the DHL Stormers in 2015, with DHL Western Province’s Absa Currie Cup-winning captain Juan de Jongh named as vice-captain for the upcoming Vodacom Super Rugby season.
Vermeulen, 28, is highly-regarded as a leader in the DHL Stormers set-up and he captained the team on the odd occasion during 2014 – most notably in the team’s memorable 21-19 win over the Sharks in Durban.
The powerful No.8 will head into the 2015 season with 78 DHL Stormers caps behind his name since 2009 – along with 29 Springbok appearances – and he will have a more than able deputy in the shape of centre Juan de Jongh – the 26-year-old having made 69 appearances for the franchise since 2010.
“Both Duane and Juan are long-time and key members of the DHL Stormers playing squad,” DHL Stormers head coach Allister Coetzee told the www.iamastormer.com website.
“They know the culture well and will inspire those around them in what is the toughest provincial competition in world rugby.
“We have a very, very young playing squad – both Duane and Juan are young leaders themselves, but they are the right men to take this team forward in the absence of Jean de Villiers (who is injured) and with Schalk Burger joining us only when his Japanese club commitments come to an end.”
The DHL Stormers have spent the past few days on camp in Hermanus, a 38-man group having done some team-building activities on Wednesday and stepping up their on-field training on with a double session on Thursday.
There are six new faces in the DHL Stormers’ pre-season group, two of whom are still Under-21 and four of whom have graduated from the 2014 league-topping DHL Western Province Under-21 side.
Said Coetzee: “It will be a big challenge for us this year with our young squad and young leadership group, which makes Duane and Juan’s roles that much more important.
“In the past our leadership groups were able to rely on experienced campaigners like Deon Fourie, Tiaan Liebenberg, Pat Cilliers, Brok Harris, De Kock Steenkamp, Peter Grant and Gio Aplon, but there are no such luxuries this year for Duane and Juan.
“It might appear daunting for us, but it also gives us an opportunity to build some more depth in the process, which we were able to do during last season when new, young DHL Stormers players like Alistair Vermaak, Ruan Botha, Kobus van Wyk and Cheslin Kolbe – to name a few – all emerged strongly during the Vodacom Super Rugby season.”
The DHL Stormers will open their 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby campaign against the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday, February 14. Their first home game is against the Blues, at DHL Newlands, on Saturday, February 21. (CLICK HERE for season ticket information!)
Before then, however, the 2011 and 2012 SA Conference winners will participate in three pre-season friendlies – against SWD (January 24 – away), the Cheetahs (January 30 – home) and the Boland Cavaliers (February 7 – away). Those pre-season match details will be confirmed by the start of next week.