Stormers confirm JJ Engelbrecht return
Cape Town - The Stormers will have JJ Engelbrecht in their ranks when they get their 2018 Super Rugby campaign underway.
Engelbrecht will make his return to Cape Town once he has concluded his commitments with Japanese side Toyota Industries Shuttles early next year.
The 28-year-old played for the Stormers between 2008 and 2011 before heading off to join the Bulls in Pretoria.
The 12-Test Springbok is a major addition to the Stormers this year as they look to improve on their quarter-final loss to the Chiefs last year.
An extended squad has been training at the High Performance Centre in Bellville in preparation for what will be another demanding campaign.
Head coach Robbie Fleck says that following a short break after the Currie Cup, the players are refreshed and ready to give their all in an effort to further raise standards in all departments.
"Last season we changed our approach in the pre-season, which stood us in good stead throughout the campaign," he said.
"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."
A host of senior players have signed contract extensions with Western Province Rugby beyond the 2018 season.
With the senior Springbok and Stormers trio of Siya Kolisi, Damian de Allende and Steven Kitshoff having recently signed extensions until the end of 2019, they have since been joined by 13 further players in committing to the union for the next two years.
Experienced forwards JC Janse van Rensburg, Scarra Ntubeni, Nizaam Carr, Caylib Oosthuizen, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Ali Vermaak, as well as exciting younger talents Wilco Louw and Kobus van Dyk have all committed their immediate future to the engine room at Newlands.
Dillyn Leyds, Jano Vermaak, SP Marais, Craig Barry and Michal Hazner are the backline players that have signed extensions.
Of course, the likes of 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.
There are also a number of current Under-19 and Under-21 players that have signed contract extensions, with World Rugby Under-20 Championship Player of the Tournament Juarno Augustus and Junior Springbok captain Ernst van Rhyn two of the young talents set to continue their careers with Western Province Rugby.
The wider training squad also includes new recruits Sergeal Petersen, Joshua Stander and Neethling Fouche.
Raymond Rhule will join training in January along with the rest of the Springboks in the squad.
Director of rugby Gert Smal said that with a talented wider squad assembled, the hard work starts now for the Stormers.
"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.
Western Province Rugby Group CEO, Paul Zacks, said that he cannot wait to see what this group will be able to go on to achieve in the next few years.
"This is a really exciting time for the Stormers, with a strong squad and a management team that can take us forward into a new era," he said.
The Stormers host the Jaguares on February 17 in their tournament opener.