Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has named what is close to his strongest possible team for the Cape side's Super Rugby warm-up match against the Lions at Newlands on Friday.
With first-team regulars like Duane Vermeulen, Dewaldt Duvenage and Andries Bekker still recovering from their respective injuries and Peter Grant still in Japan Coetzee will get a chance to test his back-up in their positions while also giving the bulk of his best side a chance to find some fluency.
Fit-again flyhalf Gary van Aswegen gets an opportunity to cement his place as Grant's understudy ahead of the chasing pack of Demetri Catrakilis, Burton Francis and Kurt Coleman, and he will be partnered at halfback by Louis Schreuder who will want to show that he has more to offer as Duvenage's deputy than Nic Groom.
The rest of the backline is full of stars as Coetzee gives his preferred combinations a chance to settle down ahead of the season. Returning utility back Joe Pietersen finds himself at fullback, flanked by Springbok flyers Bryan Habana and Gio Aplon on the wings.
Coetzee has already revealed that he wants to give Aplon an extended run on the right wing this season in a change from last year when he was moved between positions regularly.
Although the backline is littered with international quality and experience the same cannot be said of the tight five.
In the front row young Steven Kitshoff will want to prove his worth on the loosehead side while hooker Deon Fourie and tighthead Brok Harris will be determined to show that their best days are by no means behind them.
Promising lock Eben Etzebeth will get a chance to impose his immense physicality on the Lions pack alongside De Kock Steenkamp who will want to secure his spot as back-up to Bekker.
With Vermeulen still on the sidelines Nick Koster gets another opportunity to prove his worth at No.8, and he forms part of an exciting loose trio alongside skipper Schalk Burger and Siya Kolisi.
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Louis Schrueder, 8 Nick Koster, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6. Schalk Burger (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Deon Carstens, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Don Armand, 20 Reuben Johannes, 21 Nizaam Carr, 22 Nic Groom, 23 Burton Francis, 24 Marcel Brache, 25 Gerhard van den Heever, 26 Danie Poolman.
Date: Friday, January 27
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 19.00 (17.00 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
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