Schalk Brits says he cannot wait to make his Vodacom Stormers debut.
The former Western Province under-21 and schoolboy hooker returned home at the end of last season after making a name for himself at the Lions and the Cats since 2003.
On Saturday he will be leading the Vodacom Stormers against the Vodacom Bulls in their first warm-up game for the Super 14 competition.
Brits said he was looking forward to his first outing in the black of the Vodacom Stormers. “I can’t wait. Saturday is going to be a very, very hard game and it is going to be a good challenge, but I can’t wait.
“We go out to prove a point,” he added when asked about the team’s goals for the game. “My personal opinion is that you have a chance on Saturday to measure yourself against the best in South Africa when it comes to forward play, so we go out to take them on physically.
“We also want to prove to Kobus that we belong in the 22 that’s going to play against the Cats in the first game. They are coming here with an almost full-strenght team and this is a big challenge.”
Coach Kobus van der Merwe explained his decision to hand the captaincy to Brits as follows: “I think Schalk has done a great job with leading the forwards at the Cats. He was in consideration for our captaincy as well. We had a shortlist of players who we were thinking about.
“We obviously asked for the players input in terms of that as well. I think Schalk is a very good leader.
“He is looking forward to the challenge and he definitely has the support of the players he is playing with. I am confident he can lead the team.”
Brits said he is very glad to be a member of the Stormers franchise. “It is a very good franchise with a very good record. I am glad being here.”
He admitted he left WP on a sour note as a 21 year old and intended never to come back. “I was very bitter. I had a lot of issues with Province, but Nick (Mallett, director of rugby) changed my mind.
“The only thing I wanted to do was beat Province. Then I had a long chat with Nick and he made me feel more positive about Province. There were certain things I didn’t agree with in the setup, but it was changing and it is still changing, so that made a big difference.”
Brits represented WP at under 18, 19, 21, Sevens and Vodacom Cup level before packing his bags.
The fiery hooker said money played no part in his decision to return to Cape Town. “To be honest, I came for less than they offered me at the Lions. It is more about another point to prove.
“The Stormers havent been doing that well last year, but this is a young side brimming with talent and we’ve got a big future ahead of us. I cannot wait to work with all these players.”
Brits and Springbok Hanyani Shimange will be fighting it out for the hooker position, but the former said he is not perturbed by competition: “I can only focus on how I play. Kobus must decide who he wants to play.
“I worked very hard during the off-season and picked up a few kilograms – I am 100kg now as opposed to last season’s 94 and I feel my strength has improved. I think the competition is going the best out of both of us. That is going to be beneficial to the team.”