Vodacom Stormers fans are waiting in breathless anticipation for the season to kick off.
With a new coach and captain and a few acquisitions from elsewhere, there is a spirit of optimism in the Cape. The Stormers are kicking off their campaign with a match against the defending champions, the Bulls, at Newlands on Saturday.
And testimony to the excitement amongst fans is the fact that all the tickets for the game have been sold out already early on Friday.
Coach Rassie Erasmus this week admitted that there were a lot of nerves in the Stormers camp. “There is no doubt about that – there is a lot of nervousness in the camp, but the guys are handling it well.
“Fortunately it is not the first Super 14 season for most of the guys and a lot of the guys have played there already. Here guys like Schalk (Burger) and Luke (Watson) help a lot with calming down the okes.
“I am personally very nervous, this is a big game and a tough one. We have a new team and new way of doing things, so there for sure is a lot of nerves.”
Erasmus warned that the Bulls, even though they are without several stalwarts of last season, could not be underestimated. “I am sure that it will be a difficult year for them too, but they pride themselves on their depth and their structures and that ultimately those things will come through for them.
“They have been building on their franchise for a long period now and Heyneke (Meyer) put good structures in place. They are proud, but they still have lost a lot of senior players and that would affect any team.”
Jean de Villiers, who will be leading the Stormers for the first time, said the Bulls game is their only priority at the moment and that they are not looking too far ahead.
The centre said they were not too concerned about the comments certain Bulls players made in the build-up to the game. “Everybody is entitled to his opinion. Guys can say what they want off the field, but eventually it is what you do on the field that is going to count most.
“Ultimately we will be judged on what we are doing on the field,” said De Villiers.
So, the battle lines have been drawn and the Stormers are ready to make their supporters proud.
Teams for Newlands:
Vodacom Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Gcobani Bobo, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Sireli Naqelevuki, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Luke Watson, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Francois van der Merwe, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 JD Moller.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Adriaan Fondse, 19 Ross Skeate, 20 Bolla Conradie, 21 Joe Pietersen, 22 Dylan des Fountain.
Vodacom Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 John Mametsa, 13 JP Nel, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Fourie du Preez (captain), 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Wikus van Heerden, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Rayno Gerber, 2 Derick Kuün, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 James van der Walt, 17 Jaco Engels, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Dewald Potgieter, 20 Heini Adams, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Marius Delport Referee: Willie Roos (South Africa) Kick-off: 17:00. Touch judges: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Linston Manuels (South Africa) Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa) Assessor: Dennis Immelman (South Africa)