Cape Town - There is a good mix between experience and youth in the DHL Stormers squad that will report to the pre-season camp in Hermanus later this week.
Incumbent skipper Jean de Villiers, who was injured leading the Springboks in the last match of the November tour of the northern hemisphere, is of course missing from the 39 names called up for the camp and fellow Bok legend Schalk Burger will only join the Stormers once his Japanese commitments are over.
However, Bok stalwarts Eben Etzebeth and Duane Vermeulen have been included in the group after their six-week break, as have been fellow Bok tourists Nizaam Carr, Damian de Allende and Scarra Ntubeni.
Additional capped Boks attending the camp are Western Province skipper Juan de Jongh, flanker Siya Kolisi and Jaco Taute.
Joining the group for the first time will be youngsters Wilco Louw and Frans van Wyk, both of whom are props who are still eligible for the WP under-21 team, plus flyhalf Robert du Preez, centres Johnny Kotze and Huw Jones.
Fullback EW Viljoen, who made his debut for Province when an under-strength team was chosen for the final Currie Cup league game against the Sharks last October, is also among the players called up.
Bok prop Fans Malherbe is not sufficiently over the injury that kept him out for much of last season to take a full part in the camp, while promising young locks Jean Kleyn and Ruan Botha are also being nursed at this early stage of 2015. But all are on track to return during the Vodacom Super Rugby season and Steven Kitshoff, another prop who was out for much of 2014, is back in full training.
There is plenty of depth at lock for the Stormers even without Kleyn and Botha, as Gerbrandt Grobler has made a good recovery from injury and impressed in his limited appearances towards the end of the Currie Cup.
Argentina international Manuel Carizza is contracted until the end of 2015. If Etzebeth gets onto the field at the start of Super Rugby, it will be his first appearance for the Stormers since 2013 as he was out with an ankle injury for the whole of last year’s competition.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee, who has a good record when it comes to bringing new players through, is enthused about the youth component to his training group.
“We have a young squad, as you can see with seven players graduating from the WP under-21 team and going straight in,” said Coetzee.
“You could sense the energy in training today and I look forward to seeing the players lift the intensity a notch when we get to Hermanus.”
The Stormers will play three pre-season friendlies between 24 January and 7 February, with the first being against South Western Districts, the second against the Cheetahs, and the final one being their annual clash with the Boland Cavaliers.
Venues and exact dates will be confirmed later in the week.
DHL Stormers squad: Ruan Botha, Manuel Carizza, Nizaam Carr, Demetri Catrakilis, Kurt Coleman, Damian de Allende, Juan de Jongh, Robert du Preez, Ryno Eksteen, Eben Etzebeth, Rynhardt Elstadt, Gerbrandt Grobler, Nic Groom, Huw Jones, Oli Kebble, Steven Kitshoff, Jean Kleyn, Vincent Koch, Cheslin Kolbe, Siya Kolisi, Johnny Kotze, Dillyn Leyds, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, Godlen Masimla, Bongi Mbonambi, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Scarra Ntubeni, Neil Rautenbach, Michael Rhodes, Louis Schreuder, Jaco Taute, Jurie van Vuuren, Frans van Wyk, Kobus van Wyk, Alistair Vermaak, Duane Vermeulen, EW Viljoen, Michael Willemse.