Vermeulen confirmed as Stormers captain

Cape Town Super Rugby side the Stormers have confirmed that Springbok loose forward Duane Vermeulen will captain the Stormers in the 2015 Super Rugby tournament.

Vermeulen’s vice captain will be Western Province’s Currie Cup-winning captain and Springbok centre Juan de Jongh.

Vermeulen, 28, is highly-regarded as a leader in the Stormers set-up and he captained the team on the odd occasion during 2014 – most notably in the team’s memorable 21-19 win over the Sharks in Durban.

The powerful No.8 will head into the 2015 season with 78 Stormers caps behind his name since 2009 – along with 29 Springbok appearances – and he will have a more than able deputy in the shape of centre Juan de Jongh – the 26-year-old having made 69 appearances for the franchise since 2010.

“Both Duane and Juan are long-time and key members of the Stormers playing squad,” said Stormers head coach Allister Coetzee.

“They know the culture well and will inspire those around them in what is the toughest provincial competition in world rugby.

“We have a very, very young playing squad – both Duane and Juan are young leaders themselves, but they are the right men to take this team forward in the absence of Jean de Villiers (who is injured) and with Schalk Burger joining us only when his Japanese club commitments come to an end.”

The Stormers have spent the past few days on camp in Hermanus, a 38-man group having done some team-building activities on Wednesday and stepping up their on-field training on with a double session on Thursday.

There are six new faces in the Stormers’ pre-season group, two of whom are still Under-21 and four of whom have graduated from the 2014 league-topping Western Province Under-21 side.

Said Coetzee: “It will be a big challenge for us this year with our young squad and young leadership group, which makes Duane and Juan’s roles that much more important.

“In the past our leadership groups were able to rely on experienced campaigners like Deon Fourie, Tiaan Liebenberg, Pat Cilliers, Brok Harris, De Kock Steenkamp, Peter Grant and Gio Aplon, but there are no such luxuries this year for Duane and Juan.

“It might appear daunting for us, but it also gives us an opportunity to build some more depth in the process, which we were able to do during last season when new, young Stormers players like Alistair Vermaak, Ruan Botha, Kobus van Wyk and Cheslin Kolbe – to name a few – all emerged strongly during the Super Rugby season.”

The Stormers will open their 2015 Super Rugby campaign against the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday, February 14. Their first home game is against the Blues, at Newlands, on Saturday, February 21.

Before then, however, the 2011 and 2012 SA Conference winners will participate in three pre-season friendlies – against SWD (January 24 – away), the Cheetahs (January 30 – home) and the Boland Cavaliers (February 7 – away). Those pre-season match details will be confirmed by the start of next week.

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