Vodacom Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe brought in the heavy artillery for Saturday’s Super 14 warm-up match against the Southern Spears at Wellington.
Centre Piet van Zyl is the only survivor from the Stormers side that went down to the Bulls last Saturday at Newlands in the first friendly.
On Wednesday Van der Merwe said: “We tried to pick our strongest team, bar for the injuries to De Wet, Marius, Joe and Chumani Booi. This is probably the strongest (available) team we’ve put together.”
He said Springbok centre De Wet Barry, who is also the official captain for the season, would probably be back for the first Super 14 game – against the Cats on February 11 – after his knee surgery.
Flank Schalk Burger takes over the captaincy in the absence of Barry.
“Marius would be back maybe a little bit later… maybe two weeks after that. We are hopeful that will be the case, if everything goes according to plan.”
The coach said Bok No 8 Joe van Niekerk would, however, be back only in mid March. “Then he will play his first game.”
“That is why I think last weekend was such a good exercise. We have received a lot of criticism last weekend, but that was the goal: to see how much depth we’ve got in the squad and also to keep the guys injury-free.
“I think that will again be the case this weekend. We want to give the players who will be starting against the Cats as much game time as possible, but depending on the match situation we want to take key players off to prevent injury.
“But I think it is important for them to stay on the field as long as possible to get through a good 80 minutes.” Boland wings Rayno Benjamin and Jonghi Nokwe will be making their debut for the Vodacom Stormers.
Ditto for WP flyhalf Peter Grant, who will have Bolla Conradie as his halfback partner. Andries Bekker is back in the starting team after a hand injury kept him off the field for the last part of the Currie Cup season of 2005.
Vodacom Stormers: 15. Werner Greeff, 14. Rayno Benjamin, 13. Piet van Zyl, 12. Jean de Villiers, 11. Jonghi Nokwe, 10. Peter Grant, 9. Bolla Conradie, 8. Adri Badenhorst, 7. Schalk Burger (captain), 6. Luke Watson, 5. Andries Bekker, 4. Ross Skeate, 3. Eddie Andrews, 2. Hanyani Shimange, 1. JD Moller. RESERVES: 16. Schalk Brits, 17. Attie Winter, 18. Henk Eksteen, 19. David Hendricks, 20. Neil de Kock, 21. Naas Olivier, 22. Joe Pietersen.