Naas Olivier will be the flyhalf for the Vodacom Stormers in their opening Vodacom Super 14 clash against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
He was preferred to Springbok Brent Russell, who is one of the replacements. Russell will be one of the newcomers in the Stormers squad. Gio Aplon at fullback, wing Conrad Jantjes and the substitutes Brok Harris, JP Nel and Robbie Diack will all be making their Stormers debut.
Jantjes has Super 14 experience for the Cats though. Ditto for Russell, who previously played for the Sharks. There were no shocks when coach Kobus van der Merwe announced his match 22 on Saturday, although the fact that Springbok Gerrie Britz didn’t get a look in may come as a bit of a surprise to some.
Ross Skeate is the substitute for starting pair Andries Bekker and battle-hardened Selborne Boome.
Van der Merwe explained his decision to start with Olivier as follows: “There has been a lot of talk about us playing conservatively (with Naas at flyhalf).
“I however don’t see Naas as a conservative flyhalf. Brent hasn’t played flyhalf for quite a while – in fact, the last time he played there was in 2003.
“It takes time for him to get used to the position again. It is our job as coaches to improve his kicking and I am happy with his progress at this stage.
“Naas’ goal-kicking is better than Brent’s at the moment and that is what sets them apart. I spoke to them about it and Naas deserves his starting spot at the moment.”
Vodacom Stormers: Gio Aplon, Breyton Paulse, Corne Uys, Jean de Villiers, Conrad Jantjes, Naas Olivier, Bolla Conradie, Joe van Niekerk, Schalk Burger, Luke Watson (captain), Andries Bekker, Selborne Boome, Eddie Andrews, Schalk Brits, JD Moller. Replacements: Tiaan Liebenberg, Brok Harris, Ross Skeate, Robbie Diack, JP Joubert, Brent Russell, De Wet Barry.