Fleck: Stormers better prepared for Sunwolves this time
CAPE TOWN: Stormers coach Robbie Fleck knows that their Super Rugby match against the Sunwolves today (12.35pm SA time) can turn into a “dog fight” if they don’t show the Japanese side enough respect,
And given the 17-all scare the Stormers got when they faced the Sunwolves at the National Stadium last year, they don’t need any reminding of how things can go down if they don’t prepare properly.
That’s why, according to Fleck, the Stormers did things differently this time around.
The Stormers boss said that they couldn’t get any training in due to the weather conditions last year, and they also travelled a day later.
But this time, the Stormers enjoyed three training sessions in the build-up to the match, and they also left South Africa one day earlier – which can do a lot for the players in terms of getting their sleeping patterns right before the match.
“Last year we travelled a bit later and we weren’t allowed to train at all because of the weather. So we’re certainly better prepared,” Fleck said.
But one thing the Stormers couldn’t do differently, something that was out of their control, was go to Singapore with a full-strength side.
They couldn’t do it last year due to their Springbok players being rested as part of the Springbok management plan and because a number of their key players were injured. And now it’s an ugly case of déjà vu for the Cape side.
But luckily the Stormers have depth – which is always a good thing. But that depth comes in especially handy now that Fleck has some promising young talent that he wants to expose to Super Rugby.
“That’s rugger (injuries and being without their Boks). I think, in the backline, there’s only one guy that was part of the group that travelled here last time. So it’s fairly new to them,” Fleck added.
“We’ve made it clear that this is a tough place to come and play because of the environment and the conditions and certainly the opposition. But the new faces bring lots of energy and they’re excited to go out there and play.”
“Unfortunately we’ve been through a tough time early on, which is not ideal, but it is what it is and we’ll continue to fight on.”
Some of those “new faces” include Junior Bok flanker Cobus Wiese and prop Caylib Oosthuizen, who will be looking to make their Super Rugby and Stormers debuts respectively.
And while he’s not exactly a “new” face, Sevens try master Seabelo Senatla will definitely add to that excitement and energy when he runs out with the No 11 on his back. And the fact that he will feature in an already-attractive Stormers backline should make his chances of upsetting the Japanese fans even better.
Another young face will be that of tighthead prop Wilco Louw returning to the starting front row, and he should be looking to build on that scrum dominance that he so impressively subjected the Bulls to in the opening round of the competition.
While we’re on the scrums – the Sunwolves are a clever set-piece unit and their low scrummaging technique is a tough one to get under (literally), so if the Stormers were looking for affirmation of just how good their own scrummaging efforts have become, then the Sunwolves will be a good measure of that.
But the Sunwolves won’t just be a progress-indicator for the Stormers, as they will also be looking to further improve on their performances – like they have over the last two weeks.
They had it tough against the Hurricanes at the start of the competition and they weren’t too great against the Kings either, but they ran the Cheetahs and the Bulls close.
And Fleck knows the Sunwolves will want to continue giving big South African teams a tough time.
“They are a hard-working team that you can’t put away easily; they keep working. They’re very good at keeping the ball for extended periods and they keep it well,” Fleck said. “The Bulls and the Cheetahs probably disrespected them a bit and that made it a dog fight.”
“So we respect them. And after last year and what happened in terms of their improvement over the last two games, we certainly have got our work cut out. They play very similar to what the Highlanders played, so you can definitely see Jamie Joseph’s hand there. But we’re looking forward to it.”