While there won’t be any World Cup-winning Springboks in action for the Stormers this weekend, they will field a former Test player in their first Super Rugby pre-season match activity in 2020.
Hilton Lobberts used to instil great fear in the hearts of his opponents as a rampaging loose forward more than a decade ago, with his abrasive style and intense physicality proving to be a handful.
Jake White gave him his two Springbok caps in 2006 and 2007. Lobberts made his Test debut against England at Twickenham, and his second Bok match was against the All Blacks in Christchurch.
But since those heady days, injuries and a lack of game time has seen the man from Paarl move from the Bulls to Western Province, Boland, Griquas, Cheetahs and even club rugby in Italy.
Lobberts has also morphed into a front lock in recent seasons, and turned out for the Pumas last year.
But now he is back home, and Stormers coach John Dobson has given him a chance to prove that there is still some mongrel in those 33-year-old bones when the Stormers participate in a Varsity Day at Florida Park in Ravensmead tomorrow.
They will take on the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), UCT and Maties, as well as a Western Province XV in 20-minute intervals, starting at 1.30pm.
Apart from Lobberts, Dobson will be eager to see what the likes of flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis, wing Leolin Zas and prop Ali Vermaak dish up on the day.
Du Plessis is making another comeback from a long-term injury, and his fitness and form will be crucial in a position where the Stormers are rather thin, with Damian Willemse set to be the first-choice for the No 10 jersey.
Zas has returned from an injury-affected stint at the Sharks in Durban, and will want to make an impression out wide as there is serious competition for a Super Rugby starting berth at wing.
Loosehead prop Vermaak proved to be a suitable replacement whenever Steven Kitshoff has been unavailable in the past, and he will be pushing for regular game time once more.
With the lack of depth in midfield, centres such as Michal Haznar and Matt Moore will be keen to catch Dobson’s eye as well.
“We know that the Varsities will all be going flat-out, which is exactly what we need in our first pre-season game,” Dobson said.
“We have a nice blend of experienced players in need of game time and talented young players who will be keen to prove themselves, which should make for some good rugby.
“We are also looking forward to spending some time with the local community and starting 2020 in amongst our faithful supporters.”
Most of the World Cup Springboks are set to return to action in next weekend’s SuperHero Sunday at the FNB Stadium, where the Stormers will face the Sharks.
Stormers’ Varsity Day squad
Kwenzo Blose, Deon Carstens, Ben-Jason Dixon, Lucky Dlepu, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Schalk Erasmus, Brendon Esterhuizen, Neethling Fouche, Hannes Gous, Michal Haznar, Lyle Hendricks, Thys Kitshoff, David Kriel, Hilton Lobberts, Leon Lyons, Godlen Masimla, David Meihuizen, Matt Moore, Juan Mostert, Sihle Njezula, Sazi Sandi, Cornel Smit, Chad Solomon, Abner van Reenen, Ernst van Rhyn, Chris van Zyl, Ali Vermaak, Nama Xaba, Leolin Zas