Reinstated as Stormers captain, seasoned lock Chris van Zyl is preparing for a big moment on Saturday when he becomes the first skipper to lead the team out at their new Cape Town Stadium venue.
Van Zyl, a former Currie Cup-winning captain, takes over from the departed Siya Kolisi, and with Springbok prop Steven Kitshoff being managed, Van Zyl has been tasked with leading the team into a new era.
“There’s a general feeling of excitement in what will be our first official game at the stadium,” Van Zyl said on Wednesday.
“The facilities are awesome. There’s a Jacuzzi and the training facilities are world class.
“I’ve [played there] before in the Superhero Sunday, but this is now official after we moved from Newlands to start a new era.”
Stormers coach John Dobson, who named his team on Wednesday for their first match of the Preparation Series against the Cheetahs on Saturday, included a few new players like fullback Tristan Leyds, centre Cornel Smit, flyhalf Kade Wolhuter and flank Ben-Jason Dixon.
“One of the frustrations in this time has been the lack of other competitions like the SuperSport Challenge, the SA Cup or the U-21 competition,” said Dobson.
“At the end of the Currie Cup we didn’t give some guys as much opportunity as we would have liked. Some big Bok names could also be away from us for months and in a couple of weeks we might have the Rainbow Cup.”
Fullback Damian Willemse, centres Dan du Plessis and Rikus Pretorius, scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies, props Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe, hooker Bongi Mbonambi, and locks Salmaan Moerat and JD Schickerling were all being rested.
“We have to play the Boks at some point as we could suddenly go into a two-week quarantine and then the next game might be in Europe,” Dobson said.
“Chris will be the captain of this series but we have to get all the guys as close to match fitness as possible.”
Dobson believed the Rainbow Cup would be critical as it was as close to international rugby as possible, and they had to be prepared.
“We expect a tough time in our first two games,” he said ahead of this weekend’s warm-up clash.
“The Cheetahs are probably at full strength and could have players back like Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn, while Griquas have had a tough time but have been unlucky.”