Cape Town – Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has named Michael van der Spuy at outside centre to partner Springbok captain Jean de Villiers in the midfield for the team's Super Rugby opener against the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
De Villiers said the 22-year-old Van der Spuy showed in last season's Currie Cup he was ready to play at Super Rugby level.
“He's a talented ball player, and kicks well,” De Villiers said at the team announcement on Wednesday.
“He's solid and does not make a lot of mistakes. I'm confident he'll do a good job.
“I remember the days when I was a newcomer and I enjoyed great encouragement from the senior players. It is up to us as the senior players to support the youngsters coming through the ranks.”
Van der Spuy's inclusion at outside centre meant Damian de Allende was pushed out to the wing although he was hugely impressive as a centre last season.
De Villiers, who spent a fair amount of time at outside centre last year, moves in to the inside centre slot.
“I think Damian is going to have a fantastic year, whether he plays on the wing or at centre,” De Villiers said.
“Each guy in Saturday's squad will go on to the field with a lot of confidence, and in the knowledge that they (are) the best in their positions at the Stormers.
“It's always tough to play at Ellis Park, and after last week's win over the Cheetahs, they (the Lions) too will be confident.”
A second backline player who will be making his Super Rugby debut is Kobus van Wyk Ä a big, strong and quick winger.
Van Wyk is a former Junior Springbok and one of the star performers of last year's triumphant Western Province Under-21 team.
An interesting inclusion on the bench was former Blue Bulls Craven Week flyhalf Ryno Eksteen, who would provide fullback cover.
“Here's a player with good skill sets, kicks well, is good at passing and distribution,” Coetzee said.
“We looked at him as a No 15 and the way he joins the line suits him when he plays at fullback.
“He's got big match temperament and this is his big chance to show that he is a talented player.”
A big surprise in the 23-man match-day squad is the omission of hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, who was expected to be a backup to hooker Scarra Ntubeni. Deon Fourie would instead be warming the bench for Saturday's clash.
“Tiaan is fit and healthy but we went with what we saw was best for this week's match against the Lions,” Coetzee said.
“Despite our injury situation, this is still a quality team. Injuries are something that we've learnt to live with and accept.”
Argentinean lock Manuel Carizza would make the calls at the lineouts while his international experience would hold the team in good stead.
Stormers team: Gio Aplon, Kobus van Wyk, Michael van der Spuy, Jean de Villiers (captain), Damian de Allende, Demetri Catrakilis, Louis Schreuder, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Siya Kolisi, Manuel Carizza, Rynhardt Elstadt, Frans Malherbe, Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: Deon Fourie, Pat Cilliers, Oli Kebble, Michael Rhodes, Nizaam Carr, Kurt Coleman, Nic Groom, Rhyno Eksteen. – Sapa