Duane Vermeulen will assume the DHL Stormers captaincy, as well as the No.8 jersey, for Friday’s Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the top of the table – and unbeaten – Hurricanes team in Wellington (kick-off 08h35 SA time).
The influential No.8 missed last week’s 21-39 loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin as part of the SA franchises’ rest agreement with SA Rugby, but he returns this week in one of two changes to the DHL Stormers XV.
The second change, also up front, sees fellow Springbok hardman Eben Etzebeth take over the No.4 jersey from Jean Kleyn, the latter dropping out of the matchday squad altogether – along with Nizaam Carr, who did duty at No.8 last week.
On the bench, meanwhile, lock Ruan Botha will take over the No.19 jersey vacated by Etzebeth in an otherwise unchanged replacements’ unit.
DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee told the www.iamastormer.com website: “Eben is 100% and ready to start again. He is a Springbok and he brings physicality and experience to the party which you need against New Zealand teams.
“I think Jean Kleyn has done a great job for us in Eben’s absence and I must give him credit, but this is our strongest possible pack at the moment and guys like Eben and Duane (Vermeulen), both of whom are highly-regarded Springboks, will add value in the physicality stakes and in other areas too.
“In terms of Nizaam Carr missing out, the Springbok No.8 is back and he understands that. Nizaam is a great player and he will be back to his best form, I know that and we will support him to get his confidence and form back.
“You can see Siya Kolisi’s game is picking up,” added Coetzee, “and having a guy like Mike Rhodes on the bench gives us additional cover in the lock and back row positions as we start with a physical, yet mobile pack.”
The DHL Stormers and ‘Canes have met on New Zealand soil on seven previous occasions, with the Men from the Cape holding a narrow 4-3 head-to-head advantage – including a hard-fought 18-16 victory in Palmerston North in 2013.
“The Hurricanes are a quality side, they’re the best in the competition as their 6-0 record suggests,” said Coetzee.
“(But) they’re also a confident team and happy playing at home… we need to pitch up and execute our plans if we are to have a chance of beating them.”
The DHL Stormers team to face the Hurricanes (away) is as follows:
15. Cheslin Kolbe
14. Kobus van Wyk
13. Juan de Jongh (vice-captain)
12. Damian de Allende
11. Dillyn Leyds
10. Demetri Catrakilis
9. Nic Groom
8. Duane Vermeulen (captain)
7. Schalk Burger
6. Siya Kolisi (50th cap for DHL Stormers)
5. Manuel Carizza
4. Eben Etzebeth
3. Vincent Koch
2. Scarra Ntubeni
1. Steven Kitshoff
16. Bongi Mbonambi
17. Oli Kebble
18. Frans Malherbe
19. Ruan Botha
20. Michael Rhodes
21. Louis Schreuder
22. Kurt Coleman
23. Huw Jones
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: Kane McBride (New Zealand), Mike Lash (New Zealand)
TMO: Chris Wratt (New Zealand)