The powerful second-row was named Ulster Rugby Personality of the Year Award and Supporters' Player of the Season for 2010/11 and signed a new contract keeping him at the club until 2013. He has also been selected in the South Africa squad for the World Cup in New Zealand.
"It's obviously a great honour for me and I'm really excited and looking forward to a great challenge in 2011-12. I think it's going to be a much tougher season, a lot of pressure and a lot responsibility as well and I'm excited about that," he said.
"I enjoy the leadership role. Rory has done an outstanding job as captain and if I can do as good a job as he has over the past four years then I'll be a very happy man."
"As a captain you only run at the front, there's plenty of leaders in the side, plenty of guys who can make call and captain the side on any given day so for me, it's just about running at the front and making sure the backs make the right calls! I'm really excited and hugely honoured by it."
"It's going to be a much tougher challenge for us this season, partly because of the World Cup but also because last season people didn't really expect us to do well and we surprised them. If we want to be a successful side, and a side that can compete in the future with any side in Europe then we need to be better this year than last year, not just in the quarter-finals and semi-finals but every single week and in every single thing that we do, on and off the field. The big challenge not only for me as captain but the whole squad, the management and coaching staff is to make the step up. "
The 1999 European champions begin their Heineken Cup campaign this season by welcoming ASM Clermont Auvergne to Ravenhill on Saturday, 12 November. They then travel to Leicester Tigers the following week before back-to-back games against Aironi in December.