Captain De Villiers returns for Bulls clash
Springbok captain, Jean de Villiers has recovered from his sternum injury and will lead the DHL Stormers against the Bulls in Saturday’s final Vodacom Super Rugby clash of the season at DHL Newlands (kick-off 19h10).
De Villiers has missed the DHL Stormers’ last two wins, over the Cheetahs and the Kings, but his return to the starting line-up is one of five changes (one of which is positional) ahead of Saturday’s meeting with the newly-crowned SA Conference winners.
The return of De Villiers sees Damian de Allende drop to the bench, whilst, in other changes, 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 No.7.
Speaking about the return of De Villiers and the selection of Van Aswegen, Coetzee explained: “Jean is the captain and the incumbent No.12, the plan was always to bring him straight back if he was fit. With Gio at fullback, 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 (who has recovered from an ankle niggle) on the bench this week, whilst Springbok prop Pat Cilliers – who, like Elstadt made his return to action last week against the Kings – is named amongst the replacements once again.
Record-breaking wing Bryan Habana will be playing in his final match for the DHL Stormers, which will be his 57th appearance for the franchise, having scored 18 tries in the process.
Looking ahead to Saturday, Stormers coach Allister Coetzee told iamastormer.com: “A North/South Derby is always a big game, it doesn’t matter that there’s no pressure or that you’re playing for academic reasons. There’s a lot of pride at stake and we want to finish on a high.
“It’s massively important for us to win this weekend. We’ve only lost to the Crusaders here (at home) this year and we lost to the Bulls at Newlands in 2011, so we’d like to finish on a high and carry that momentum into the next competition.”
The DHL Stormers team: 15. Gio Aplon, 14. Gerhard van den Heever, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Jean de Villiers (captain), 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Gary van Aswegen, 9. Louis Schreuder, 8. Nizaam Carr, 7. Rynhardt Elstadt, 6. Deon Fourie (vice-captain), 5. De Kock Steenkamp, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Brok Harris, 2. Scarra Ntubeni, 1. Steven Kitshoff. Reserves: 16. Martin Bezuidenhout, 17. Pat Cilliers, 18. Gerbrandt Grobler, 19. Don Armand, 20. Nic Groom, 21. Elton Jantjies, 22. Damian de Allende,