De Jongh to skipper Stormers

Duane Vermeulen will be rested for the Stormers' opening tour match against the Highlanders, with Juan de Jongh assuming the captaincy duties.

Vermeulen has started every match for the Stormers so far this season, but will sit out the match in Dunedin in accordance with an agreement decided upon by Saru and the South African franchises. The two parties are in agreement that key Springbok players need to be managed in the buildup to the World Cup later this year, and that players should not play more than five consecutive weeks.

'He's [Vermeulen] an A [category contract] guy and he's played five games on the trot, so Juan will lead the team [in the first tour match],' said coach Allister Coetzee at Tuesday's press conference in Bellville.

'It was the plan from the beginning to rest him for this match [against the Highlanders]. We have a bye this week, so Duane will rest for a fortnight.'

Vermeulen's absence has been offset by the return of Schalk Burger, who will add his considerable experience to the Stormers' loose trio, while Currie Cup captain Juan de Jongh will take over as captain.

'Juan proved he was a good captain in the Currie Cup and we have lots of faith in him,'said Coetzee.

'In Duane's absence we also have a chance to have a hard look at the depth of leadership in the group. We have people like Schalk Burger, Michael Rhodes and even Damian de Allende who have stepped up as leaders.'

The Stormers have announced a 27-man squad for the Australasian tour, with Rynhardt Elstadt (broken leg) and Jaco Taute (knee) the only absentees. Hooker Bongi Mbonambi, prop Oli Kebble, lock Eben Etzebeth, flank Mike Rhodes and wing Johnny Kotze all missed the defeat to the Chiefs, but are fit to tour.

'We have to bounce back so that we can win the first match tour. If you don't do that it can become very testing over the rest of the tour,' said Coetzee.

'We know that the Highlanders and the Hurricanes can play similar to the Chiefs so we know what we're up against. The loss against Chiefs will be a failure if we didn’t learn from it.'

Stormers squad – Ruan Botha, Schalk Burger, Manuel Carizza, Nizaam Carr, Demetri Catrakilis, Kurt Coleman, Damian de Allende, Juan de Jongh, Eben Etzebeth, Nic Groom, Huw Jones, Oli Kebble, Steven Kitshoff, Jean Kleyn, Vincent Koch, Cheslin Kolbe, Siya Kolisi, Johnny Kotze, Dillyn Leyds, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Scarra Ntubeni, Michael Rhodes, Louis Schreuder, Kobus van Wyk, Alistair Vermaak, Duane Vermeulen (c).

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images