Allister Coetzee, the DHL Stormers head coach, has announced his team for Friday’s 2013 Vodacom Super Rugby opener against the Bulls in Pretoria (kick-off 19h10).
Centre Jean de Villiers will lead the team into battle in the absence of Schalk Burger (calf muscle injury), whilst there are first-ever Stormers Super Rugby starts for new recruits Jaco Taute, Elton Jantjies and Pat Cilliers.
“It’s a very unfortunate scenario for Schalk as first it was the knee, but now that the knee is finally better he has picked up a calf strain and it isn’t coming right quickly enough for him to start the season for us,” said Coetzee.
“If we were maybe playing a semifinal or something we may have risked Schalk, but at this stage of the season I don’t want to risk it. It’s a simple calf injury, but Schalk does have a history of calf strains and I would like him instead to work on strengthening that calf.
“We will leave it until after the Chiefs game (on March 9), when we have our bye, before we reassess when Schalk may be ready to return.”
Twenty-one-year-old centre Damian de Allende, who started in the 2012 Absa Currie Cup Final, will get his first-ever taste of Super Rugby action as cover for Juan de Jongh (hamstring injury), whilst, on the bench, Nizaam Carr (knee) and Dewaldt Duvenage (broken leg) make their returns after spending some time on the sidelines last year.
Reserve hooker Martin Bezuidenhout will be hoping for his first official game time in a Stormers jersey after featuring in pre-season games against the Cheetahs and Boland, whilst Springbok lock Andries Bekker will play in his 95th Super Rugby match for the DHL Stormers.
De Allende will play alongside new flyhalf Jantjies – who boasts plenty Super Rugby experience in his young career thus far – whilst the Stormers’ new 10-12 axis will be able to rely on the calming influence of Bok skipper Jean de Villiers in the No.13 jersey.
Coetzee explained: “Elton is a really exciting player who has a lot of experience and ability to put players around him into space and he also has played international rugby. Damian played well for us in the Currie Cup Final last year against a good Sharks team and he showed there that he has the attributes for No.12.
“We also prefer to play Jean at outside centre because outside centre is a harder position to play given the extra responsibility of organising the defence.
“I would rather have a new player playing inside centre than at outside, and Elton and Jean will be on either side of him and both have plenty of experience.”
The DHL Stormers team to take on the Bulls is as follows:
15. Jaco Taute
14. Gio Aplon
13. Jean de Villiers (captain)
12. Damian de Allende
11. Bryan Habana
10. Elton Jantjies
9. Nic Groom
8. Duane Vermeulen
7. Rynhardt Elstadt
6. Siya Kolisi
5. Andries Bekker
4. De Kock Steenkamp
3. Pat Cilliers
2. Deon Fourie
1. Steven Kitshoff
16. Martin Bezuidenhout
17. Frans Malherbe
18. Don Armand
19. Nizaam Carr
20. Dewaldt Duvenage
21. Gerhard van den Heever
22. Joe Pietersen
Referee: Jaco Peyper