Etzebeth to make Stormers debut

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Eben_Etzebeth Gallo Images Eben Etzebeth of the Stormers.

Abrasive lock Eben Etzebeth will make his Super Rugby debut for the Stormers against the Hurricanes in their opening game at Newlands on Saturday night.

Etzebeth, 20, was a surprise inclusion in the Stormers' run-on XV, named on Wednesday, after an ankle injury ruled out Rynhardt Elstadt.

“I'm happy with Rynhardt's progress in terms of his injury but I don't want to rush any player into competition. He'll be ready to play next week,” said Stormers coach Allister Coetzee.

“This is a great opportunity for Eben who offers great quality as a No 4 jumper.”

The Stormers side is a mixture of experience and youth and captain Schalk Burger felt it was a good time for the rookies to make the step up.

“The young players in the side have been in the system for a while,” Burger said.

“It has now reached a stage where they have an opportunity to make a name for themselves.”

Nick Koster was named ahead of Duane Vermeulen at No 8, where he was considered a strong contender for the Springboks last season until an injury ruled him out of the World Cup.

Vermeulen, who has played most of his rugby at No 8 since arriving in Cape Town, will pack down at blindside flank.

“Nick has been around for a while and since we have four good loose forwards, we'll be looking to rotate them as the season unfolds,” Burger said.

With outside centre Juan de Jongh still nursing a cheekbone injury, Coetzee predictably decided to use Bryan Habana in that role.

“I am very confident that Bryan will do a good job for us and he's playing alongside Jean de Villiers, whose a very experienced player,” Coetzee said.

“We're not underestimating the Hurricanes but we have definite plans for this match and it suits us fine to have Habana in midfield.”

The Hurricanes squad have taken a huge knock after they lost the services of eight All Blacks players at the end of last season, but Coetzee said the new faces were all gifted rugby players.

“I've seen the tapes of their warm-up matches, which were against top sides,” Coetzee said.

“They were impressive, especially the way they played in the closing stages.

“It is obvious that their team is well-prepared and well organised on the field.”

Stormers team: Joe Pietersen, Gerhard van den Heever, Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers, Gio Aplon, Gary van Aswegen, Dewaldt Duvenage, Nick Koster, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger (captain), Andries Bekker, Eben Etzebeth, Brok Harris, Tiaan Liebenberg, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: Scarra Ntubeni, Frans Malherbe, De Kock Steenkamp, Siya Kolisi, Louis Schreuder, Burton Francis, Marcel Brache. – Sapa

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