The Stormers will brave the heat in Wellington on Saturday when they tackle Boland with a batch of their brightest young prospects and a new captain in the form of De Kock Steenkamp.
The first match of the season will be more than just a warm-up thanks to the crippling heat that has hampered the Stormers at training all week, with a hot affair expected in Wellington on Saturday.
Several top Springboks have been spared from the trip with the emphasis being on new combinations and an opportunity for the young guns to stake their claim in the team.
"We would like to test new combinations, so I want all the new players so settle into our systems and give them a hit out first," coach Allister Coetzee explained.
"We're very excited about the youngsters coming through who were part of the Under-21 setup last year, and now I'd like to see the fight in those youngsters at a higher level.
"This [match] is exactly what they need now to build confidence in their ability to play at this level. It's nice to play in front of a big crowd at Newlands and play against a top province, but going out to play Boland in Wellington, or to play the Pumas in Witbank - that is when your character is tested."
Big lock Steenkamp gets an opportunity to test his leadership skills, while veteran scrumhalf Bolla Conradie is back in the mix to offer his experience to the side.
"Kockie has been one of our leaders in the Currie Cup last year," Coetzee said. He's a natural pack leader and he runs the line-out, so he was the natural choice for us.
The match also offers the coaching staff some licence to experiment, with new signing Gerhard van den Heever expected to start at fullback.
"We have a fair idea of what the team will be, but I would like to give everyone in the squad a run," Coetzee added.
"Burton Francis and Gerhard are new here and we need to get them into contact and see how they go. There are also a lot of youngsters pushing for places and in all fairness we know the certainties for Super Rugby, but I would still like to see the young boys coming through."
There are still some injury concerns going into the new season, especially in the second row where Andries Bekker, Rynhardt Elstadt, Hilton Lobberts and Quinn Roux all unavailable for this match.
Prop Wicus Blaauw, No.8 Duane Vermeulen and scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage are also still recovering from injuries and not yet ready for selection.
"I don't want to pick players if they are only medically fit and aren't strong enough for Super Rugby yet," Coetzee confirmed.
Stormers squad to play Boland: Adrian Kritzinger, Allistair Vermaak, Berton Klaasen, Bolla Conradie (vice-captain), Brok Harris, Burton Francis, Clemen Lewis, Danie Poolman, De Kock Steenkamp (captain), Don Armand, Eben Etzebeth, Ederies Arendse, Frans Malherbe, Gerbrandt Grobler, Gerhard van den Heever, Gio Aplon, JP du Plessis, Juan de Jongh, Marcel Brache, Kurt Coleman, Michael van der Spuy, Nic Groom, Nick Koster, Nizaam Carr, Reuben Johannes, Rohan Kitshoff, Tiaan Liebenberg, Yaya Hartzenburg.
Boland: 15 Jacquin Jansen, 14 Alistair Kettledas, 13 Jonathan Francke, 12 Siviwe Magaba, 11 Brandon April, 10 Ricardo Croy, 9 Neil Papier, 8 Junior Bester (captain), 7 Thor Halvorsen, 6 Milroy Isaacs, 5 Nolan Clark, 4 Jerry Sefoko, 3 Peet Vorster, 2 Chris Buckle, 1 Charl du Plessis.
Replacements: Martin Nel, Ludwig Ras, BJ Julies, Jaco du Toit, PJ van Zyl, Franzel September, Zandre Jordaan, Juwell Samuels, Armand Marais, Jeremy Plaatjies, Cola Williams, Senan van der Merwe, Trevor van Rooyen, Adriaan Klaasen, Adam Barlow.
Date: Saturday, January 21
Venue: Boland Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Joey Salmans
By Timmy Hancox
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