Cape Town - The Stormers' decision to appoint two leaders this season was perhaps indicative of their desire to change, but it was still somewhat strange to see one of the substitutes for Saturday's Super Rugby clash against the Bulls at Newlands named as a co-captain.
Frans Malherbe was expected to start in the Stormers front row and share the leadership responsibilities with Juan de Jongh, but coach Robbie Fleck's team announcement on Thursday revealed that Vincent Koch had cracked the nod.
Fleck explained the decision at his team announcement.
"Frans is coming back from an ankle injury which he
sustained two weeks ago," said Fleck.
"The feeling there was that he hadn’t had any game time
building up to this game so it’s the right move to bring him off the bench.
wasn’t involved in the game against the (SWD) Eagles, he wasn’t involved in the game
against the Jaguares, he missed out on 10 days of training … it’s the right decision."
The same logic applied to Fleck's decision to bench Siya Kolisi.
Fleck had hinted earlier in the week that Sikhumbuzo Notshe would be given a go at No 6, and the 22-year-old now has a massive opportunity to put his hand up for an extended run in the side as Kolisi comes back from a calf injury and Reynhardt Elstadt sits out with a groin strain.
The other big call that Fleck has made is to back 22-year-old Robert du Preez as his starting flyhalf in 2016.
With an emphasis on playing a more expansive game that requires ball-in-hand rugby, Du Preez will play a crucial role in getting the Stormers on the front foot.
Fleck said that having Juan de Jongh on his outside and Jano Vermaak on his inside would help Du Preez.
have that experience next to a young flyhalf is massively important," said Fleck.
his (Du Preez's) first big step up in a tough competition so to have the experience of
Juan next to him is a massive help … and the experience of Jano Vermaak on
his inside will help him as well.
"We all know how important the No 10 is so if he’s got cool,
calm heads around them then maybe it will make his job a little easier."
Du Preez will also provide cover at 12, while Kurt Coleman is the flyhalf cover off the bench.
Saturday's match kicks off at 17:15.
15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (co-captain), 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble
Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Frans Malherbe (co-captain), 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Leolin Zas
15 Warrick Gelant , 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Nic de Jager, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), Trevor Nyakane
Substitutes: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Burger Odendaal