CAPE TOWN - So, it’s been confirmed - JJ Engelbrecht will join the Stormers for their 2018 Super Rugby campaign.
The 28-year-old – who represented the Cape side between 2008 and 2011 before joining the Bulls - will return to Cape Town following his stint with Japanese side Toyota Industries Shuttles early next year.
The Stormers’ wider training group also includes Cheetahs wing Sergeal Petersen and Blue Bulls Joshua Stander (flyhalf) and Neethling Fouche (tighthead prop), while Raymond Rhule and the rest of the Springboks will slot into training in January.
Earlier this season, amidst an injury crisis in midfield, the Stormers approached Engelbrecht as they zoomed in on possible local replacements with experience following injuries to Damian de Allende, Huw Jones and Juan de Jongh, but those negotiations fell through. They then acquired the services of former Highlanders centre, Shaun Treeby.
And following Jones’ departure, Engelbrecht could be used in midfield as he was at the Bulls and the Springboks, although he spent most of his time on the wing in Cape Town. So where will he be used?
Currently, the Stormers’ midfield resources include Damian de Allende, EW Viljoen and Dan du Plessis, while out wide, following Leolin Zas and Cheslin Kolbe’s departure, they have Sergeal Petersen, Raymond Rhule and Dillyn Leyds (who can play at 15 as well), while Sevens star Seabelo Senatla has also expressed his plans to continue focusing on Fifteens in future.
Province have also secured the signatures for contract extensions from a number of senior players as well, as Siya Kolisi, De Allende and Steven Kitshoff have been joined by 13 more players in committing to the union for the next two years.
Forwards JC Janse van Rensburg, Scarra Ntubeni, Nizaam Carr, Caylib Oosthuizen, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Alistair Vermaak, Wilco Louw and Kobus van Dyk have all put pen to paper, while Springboks Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit are also all currently on contracts which run until the end of 2019.
In the backline, Dillyn Leyds, Jano Vermaak, SP Marais, Craig Barry and Michal Hazner have signed extensions.
On the younger front, World Rugby Under-20 Championship Player of the Tournament Juarno Augustus and Junior Springbok captain Ernst van Rhyn are two of the youngsters who have signed contract extensions with Province.
With the Stormers having started their pre-season preparations ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby competition, head coach Robbie Fleck is expecting another tough Super Rugby season.
Following their horror quarter-final exit against the Chiefs at Newlands last year, after which they made adjustments to their playing style, the Stormers lost 11-17 to the Chiefs in the quarter-final this time around.
"Last season we changed our approach in the pre-season, which stood us in good stead throughout the campaign. The focus is on making sure that we put the hard work in now, both physically and mentally, in order to prepare the team for what lies ahead next year," Fleck said.
Director of rugby Gert Smal added that they are excited about their depth both in terms of seniors and younger players.
"We are excited about the depth of talent that we have at our disposal with a number of senior players committing who will be able to provide valuable guidance for the talented youngsters coming through. It is important that we keep on moving forward in terms of our results, playing style and composure in all areas," he said.