If I am fit I will be looking to play
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers is expecting another long Super Rugby season with the Stormers without much rest or rotation.
The experienced centre has recently returned from a month's break after a 2013 season which saw him play almost every possible fixture for the Springboks, Stormers and Western Province, and he expects more of the same this year.
With Juan de Jongh and the impressive Damian de Allende also at his disposal Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has some encouraging midfield depth, but a shortage of outside backs means that De Allende is likely to be used on the wing which is where he will line up against the Bulls in Polokwane this weekend.
De Villiers, who turns 33 next month, has been impressed with De Allende's development and is confident that he is well-suited to a role out wide.
He told this website: "He [De Allende] has got all the skills, he has got the size and I am confident that he can do it there [wing]. He has been looking really good at training and he will be staking a claim at centre and wing, hopefully we can rotate on that basis as well.
However, as much as the idea of rotation may be appealing to a veteran like De Villiers he also knows that any game he sits out will be a chance for his replacement to shine, and as skipper he expects to start as long as he is fully fit.
"I am not expecting any favours regarding that, if I am fit I will be looking to play and we will take it from there," he said.
De Villiers added that although he is able to play in both centre positions, his days on the wing are firmly behind him, which is fair enough considering his seniority and the form he found in midfield last year.
The Stormers captain will be backed up this season by fellow Springbok and Stormers stalwart Schalk Burger who he says is raring to finally get out on the pitch after two years out of the game due to health issues.
"It is great to have him back, he looks like the Schalk of old, I think he has got the confidence back and he is looking good at training so now it is about getting through the game and hopefully that will go well and he can have a great season this year," he said.
Although the Stormers squad has quite a young look to it, De Villiers pointed out that the likes of Rynhardt Elstadt, Steven Kitshoff and Demetri Catrakilis have built up a considerable amount of experience already which could be vital this season.
"The good thing is that we do have a young team, but with experience. You look at a 23-year-old with three years of Super Rugby experience, or in Steven Kitshoff's case a 22-year-old with three years of Super Rugby experience.
"So that is good to know and we are confident with the squad that we have, we have still got guys that will be joining us later after injuries and with Bashy [Peter Grant] coming back from overseas, and looking to add maybe one or two more," he said.
On top of the likely additions to the squad, De Villiers has also been impressed with the new crop of young players that are trying to break into the match-day squad.
"The group has really tested well, and I think it is just reward for the Under-21 guys who won the competition last year to see that if you do well there is a reward at the end of the tunnel.
"These guys can stake a claim in the Stormers squad and they have been looking really good," he said.
Having missed out on the play-offs last year the big focus for the Stormers this season is making a good start to the competition before they head overseas, which is why they have scheduled three warm-up matches.
"I think what caught us last year was the fact that we started pretty slowly and had to catch up towards the end. I thought we peaked at the right time but we were just left with not enough points.
"If we can get a better start this year, we travel quite soon, but if we can get a few wins under our belt then it should be good," said De Villiers.
By Michael de Vries