Cape Town – Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers will lead the Stormers in Saturday's pre-season friendly against the Bulls at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, coach Allister Coetzee announced on Wednesday.
Fellow Springbok Schalk Burger was also announced in Coetzee's starting line-up, packing down in the number seven jersey and assuming the team vice-captaincy.
Burger forms a formidable all-Springbok loose trio alongside Duane Vermeulen and Siya Kolisi, with Rynhardt Elstadt and Ruan Botha running out in a new-look second row for the Cape outfit.
De Villiers, meanwhile, will resume his partnership alongside Juan de Jongh in the midfield, with Damian de Allende starting at wing.
Western Province under-21 star Kobus van Wyk will start on the right-wing and Springbok fullback Gio Aplon will provide plenty of experience at fullback.
The Stormers will play two more warm-up matches after this weekend, against the Kings (Friday, February 7) and Boland (Saturday, February 15).
Coetzee was quick to point out that the fixtures would be used purely for experimental purposes in finding the rhythm of the team, but admitted that the Stormers would be gunning for victory in all of their warm-up fixtures as the start of the Super Rugby season approaches.
“Let me say from the outset that the results of these warm-up matches are not of primary importance, but that does not mean we won't – or don't – care about winning (these matches),” Coetzee said.
“The focus is internal... it's on the Stormers... on what we've been doing over the last couple of weeks, and to see how that pans out under pressure. We have a few objectives in terms of the breakdown, our kicking game... the set-phase and we want to make sure we achieve those little goals.”
Coetzee added that the Stormers upped the amount of warm-up games, due to a poor start to the Super Rugby season last year.
“This will be the Bulls' only pre-season friendly, so the two teams' focus will be entirely different,” added Coetzee.
“Last year we made a slow start to our season and as a result we opted for three warm-up matches this time. Part of the planning is playing away from home, which was done to take the players out of their comfort zone.
“We also want to use these games to see what the youngsters can do and whether our depth is sufficient.
“I've never been shy to give young players an opportunity and there's no better opportunity than to play the Bulls away from home.”
Gio Aplon, Kobus van Wyk, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (captain), Damian de Allende, Demetri Catrakilis, Louis Schreuder, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Siya Kolisi, Ruan Botha, Rynhardt Elstadt, Frans Malherbe, Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: Tiaan Liebenberg, Oli Kebble, Alistair Vermaak/Justin Ackerman, Jean Kleyn, Michael Rhodes, Nizaam Carr, Nic Groom, Gary van Aswegen, Scott van Breda, Ryno Eksteen, Deon Fourie. – Sapa