Neil de Kock will lead the Investec Stormers during the 2005 Super 12 campaign. The Stormers will also have two official vice-captains in De Wet Barry and Joe van Niekerk.
Stormers coach Gert Smal made this announcement today at the Stormers’ training camp at Lourensford in Somerset West. The camp ends on Saturday.
The scrumhalf took over the captaincy reins from Corne Krige, who is currently playing club rugby in England. De Kock is also the Investec Western Province captain.
Smal said he opted for De Kock because he is very experienced, not only as a player, but also as captain. He said he had known De Kock for a long time and it was he who brought De Kock to Western Province from the Northern Free State.
“He is with WP and the Stormers for quite a while now and he is used to the system. The relationship between the captain and the coach is vital and we have a good understanding. Neil earns respect in his own, unique way with his personality and he has a good work ethic.
“Added to that he is at ease with the media,” explained Smal.
The coach said he would give De Kock and Bolla Conradie a fair amount of game time. Both are contenders for the Springboks number nine jumper. “Bolla will get enough game time. In those games that he will be starting, De Wet Barry will take over the captaincy.
“I was toying with the idea of appointing Neil and De Wet as captain, but realised you shuold have a captain. However, De Wet will also play an important leadership role.”
The coach said he was happy with the way the preparations were going. “I am happy. At the moment we are doing a lot of rugby specific training and we are looking forward to an exciting Super 12.”
Smal, who is also the Springboks assistant coach, said the fitness levels at this stage are acceptable. The players started their pre-season training on 7 November and assistant coaches Carel du Plessis and Jerome Paarwater ensured that things ran smoothly in the absence of Smal.
“A coach is never happy, you always want better for your team, but at this stage the fitness of the guys is okay. At this stage we are just working on our weak points.”
The coach admitted that the tight five is a bit of a concern for him at the moment. “First phase possession is going to be very important for us this and we want to get our tight five at the level where they can win enough good first phase ball for us to be competent. We want them to complement the backs.”
Smal said there weren’t a lot of players out there who could strengthen the tight five, but he would look at some possibilities. However, his first priority is to give the players in the squad a decent chance to prove themselves in the friendly matches.
Conradie, who suffered a hand injury at the end of last year’s Currie Cup season that kept him out of the Springboks end-of-year tour, will not be playing in the first friendly, against Boland on 29 January.
Ditto for lock Quinton Davids, who had back trouble. “Quinton went to see a specialist and we want to handle him carefully. We won’t rush him back.”
Springbok utility back Jean de Villiers, who also suffered an ankle injury, would also probably sit out the first game. De Kock is also a doubtful starter after his shoulder surgery at the end of last season.
Good news for Stormers fans though is that flyhalf Chris Rossouw, who missed almost all of last season with injury, is back and will be seeing some action against Boland.
On Saturday Jonathan Kaplan, one of South Africa’s top referees, will visit the Stormers to help them with certain interpretations of the laws.