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Team Preview: The Stormers

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allblacks.com     12 Feb 2018     Getty Images

Home: Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Last season: Losing quarterfinalist

Squad:
Juarno Augustus, Craig Barry, Nizaam Carr, Jaco Coetzee, Damian de Allende, Jan de Klerk, Paul de Wet, Stephan de Wit, Dan du Plessis, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Johan du Toit, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Dewaldt Duvenage, JJ Engelbrecht, Eben Etzebeth, Neethling Fouche, JC Janse van Rensberg, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi (captain), Dan Kriel, Dillyn Leyds, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, SP Marais, Bongi Mbonambi, Salmaan Moerat, Dean Muir, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Scarra Ntubeni, Caylib Oosthuizen, Sergeal Petersen, Justin Phillips, Raymond Rhule, Carlu Sadie, Ramone Samuels, JD Schickerling, Seabelo Senatla, Joshua Stander, Kobus van Dyk, Chris van Zyl, Alistair Vermaak, Jano Vermaak, EW Viljoen, George Whitehead, Cobus Wiese, Damian Willemse, Eddie Zandberg.

QUICK TAP: SOUTH AFRICAN SIDES EMBRACE CONFERENCE CHANGES

Game breaker:
Dillyn Leyds is the archetypal modern day outside back. His electric pace, vision and fearless play are equally matched by his slick hands and handy boot. It was no surprise when the 25-year-old speedster was called up to the Springboks for the first time in 2017. Able to play virtually anywhere in the backline, Leyds is the type of player that even his own team don’t know what he is going to do. Leyds pulled off one of the moments of Super Rugby 2017 with his audacious offload from the ground against the Chiefs at Newlands Stadium. 
Captain Fantastic:
Long known for his blockbusting ball running and earth-shattering defence, Kolisi emerged as a quality leader for the Stormers last year. In his first season as captain, Kolisi lead the Stormers to the top of South African Conference 1 and third place overall on the competition ladder. His side were just moments away from securing a semifinal berth before Shaun Stevenson dashed their hopes with a late try in the quarterfinal. Kolisi and his troops will be galzanised from that experience and desperate to go further in 2018.

Returning veteran:

Towering lock Eben Etzebeth returns for what will be his seventh season with the Stormers. Etzebeth is regarded as one of the premier second-rowers in world rugby and provides some steel and experience to the Stormers pack. Although regarded as a veteran, Etzebeth is just hitting his prime at 26-years-old and will be desperate to taste Super Rugby success with the team he first debuted for in 2012.

The scoop:
With a more expansive running game than most of the other South African sides, the Stormers will be a team to watch in 2018. With electric ball runners throughout their line-up and a hardened attitude following last year’s quarterfinal disappointment, the Stormers will be a tough proposition this year and could just pass the Lions as the leading South African team.