Springbok captain Jean de Villiers has recovered from his sternum injury and will lead the Stormers against the Bulls in Saturday’s Super Rugby clash at Newlands.
De Villiers, who missed the Stormers’ last two wins — over the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings — returns to the starting line-up in one of five changes ahead of Saturday’s meeting with the newly-crowned SA Conference winners.
To make room for the captain, Damian de Allende drops to the bench, while Gio Aplon shifts from wing to fullback(in place of the injured Joe Pietersen.
Gerhard van den Heever comes onto the right-wing, Gary van Aswegen will start at flyhalf and Rynhardt Elstadt returns at number seven.
“Jean de Villiers is the captain and the incumbent No.12 so the plan was always to bring him straight back if he was fit,” said coach Allister Coetzee on Wednesday.
“With Gio at fullback being a left-footer, bringing in Gary at flyhalf gives us the important option of having the combination of a left- and right-footed kicker in our backline.”
Don Armand and Elton Jantjies join De Allende on the bench while Springbok prop Pat Cilliers is named among the replacements once again.
Record-breaking wing Bryan Habana will be playing in his final match for the Stormers, which will be his 57th appearance for the franchise, having scored 18 tries in the process.
“It’s massively important for us to win this weekend. We’ve only lost to the Crusaders at home this year and we lost to the Bulls at Newlands in 2011,” said Coetzee.
“We’d like to finish on a high and carry that momentum into the next competition.”
Stormers team: Gio Aplon, Gerhard van den Heever, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bryan Habana, Gary van Aswegen, Louis Schreuder, Nizaam Carr, Rynhardt Elstadt, Deon Fourie (vice-captain), De Kock Steenkamp, Eben Etzebeth, Brok Harris, Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: Martin Bezuidenhout, Pat Cilliers, Gerbrandt Grobler, Don Armand, Nic Groom, Elton Jantjies, Damian de Allende. – Sapa