The Vodacom Stormers will get their first taste of what awaits them in the Vodacom Super 14 when they take on English Premiership side Saracens at Newlands on Sunday 25 January (4pm) in a warm-up match.
Coach Rassie Erasmus has selected a star-studded squad including 12 Springboks. Two other Bok stars, fullback Conrad Jantjes (groin) and flank Schalk Burger (flank), were not considered due to injuries.
The Stormers tackle Boland in their final friendly match before the tournament proper kicks off against the Sharks on Februarie 14 against the Sharks and Erasmus was optimistic that Burger would be ready to play at Wellington.
The coach, who was in charge of the side for the first time last year and took them to fifth place on the points’ table, was looking forward to seeing his charges in action. “We feel that we only have two warm-up games where there is a referee and a crowd and feeling the pressure and playing at Newlands and next weekend at Boland.
“Saracens are a class team with some awesome international talent and a fantastic coach (Eddie Jones),” said Erasmus. “Playing a side well into their season, and at the top of their game provides us with incredible match preparation for the rigours of this year’s Super 14.
“Having only two full warm-up games, we have opted to play a strong side, less our players currently carrying niggles. We’ve had a couple of contact sessions but this fixture will allow us to really test our combinations and see how our off season work translates on the pitch.”
The match sees the return of two former Stormers stalwarts, prop Cobus Visagie and scrumhalf Neil de Kock, to Newlands. De Kock, however, will not be in action due to a broken arm.
Saracens will provide tough opposition, with All Black veterans Justin Marshall and Chris Jack, former Sharks centre Brad Barritt, Australian centre Ben Jacobs as well as Springbok Wikus van Heerden lining up at Newlands.
Stormers captain Jean de Villiers said he was looking forward to the first match of the season after recovering from a slight groin injury. He said it would be nice to play against some familiar faces but rued the fact that his “good friend” De Kock will not be out on the pitch.
“It does add something extra to play against those guys. They definitely know more about us.”
De Villiers said his team wants to build a winning culture ahead of the upcoming Super 14 season. He said Sunday’s match would provide his side with an excellent test.
“For the Stormers, going into the Super 14 season, it is great to get a warm-up match like that,” said De Villiers. “We are bracing =ourselves for a tough game. It doesn’t matter who they will put on the field, it will be a tough challenge for our team.
“It is important that we get into that winning habit ahead of the start of the Super 14 programme, but we’re not too worried about the result.
“We should not worry too much about the result at this stage. We have to see to it that the stuff that we’ve been working on in training comes off in Sunday’s match situation.
“Hopefully if we do that well, we will get the win the match.”
Tickets for the match are on sale at Computicket, Shoprite Checkers and Checkers Hyper Stores, as well as at the Newlands Box Office until kick-off. Tickets are priced at R50 for seating and R25 for standing.
Teams for Newlands:
Vodacom Stormers: Percy Montgomery; Tonderai Chavhanga, Gcobani Bobo, Jean De Villiers (captain), Sireli Naqelevuki; Peter Grant, Ricky Januarie; Luke Watson, Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Andries Bekker, Adriaan Fondse, Brian Mujati, Schalk Brits, JD Moller. Reserves: Deon Fourie, JC Kritzinger, Wicus Blaauw, Hilton Lobberts, AJ Venter/George Earle, Pieter Louw, Bolla Conradie, Joe Pietersen, Dylan Des Fountain, Alipate Fatafehi, Nick Koster.
Saracens: Chris Wyles, Kameli Ratuvou, Ben Jacobs, Brad Barritt, Richard Haughton, Glen Jackson, Justin Marshall, Ben Skirving, Wikus Van Heerden, Chris Jack (capt), Tom Ryder, Hugh Vyvyan, Cobus Visagie, Andy Kyriacou, Nick Lloyd.
Referee: Mark Lawrence.