Time for Stormers to be clinical
Fleck’s chance to experiment against Sunwolves and eradicate ill-discipline
How do you motivate yourself when you are playing a team that just got whipped 94-7? Or even worse, when you’ve already qualified for the quarter-finals?
That’s the challenge facing the Stormers ahead of their clash against the Sunwolves.
The Stormers would be forgiven for not being as high on motivation as they would be if they had a clash looming against, well, any New Zealand side (or the Lions).
But here are my five reasons why the Stormers must somehow try to ignore that 94-7 scoreline.
1 Momentum It’s a fact that Robbie Fleck’s Stormers will go up against a Kiwi side come the quarter-finals; the only question now is who? (it will be either the Chiefs or the Hurricanes). So, knowing who their possible opponents could be in a few weeks’ time should be motivation enough to give their all and build on the momentum that they’ve started to restore since going down to the Sharks before the Test break. Confidence will be key from now on, and any knock to that confidence can do some damage. A big win against the Sunwolves at Newlands this weekend and another against the Bulls next weekend will do a lot for the Stormers’ momentum. And momentum, and confidence, is definitely going to be vital from here on. 2 Beware of the wounded … wolf There are few things more galvanising than having to play for respect. And after the weekend the Sunwolves have had, they will be hungry to earn some respect again. They need to. But, as the Super Rugby competition has showed us over many, many years, a team can take an absolute whipping the one week and come back and win the next. 3 Another chance to get those combinations right When assistant coach Paul Feeney was asked whether they would put out their strongestpossible side and risk injuries to key players, he said the Stormers were planning on naming a very strong side and that they had to show respect to their sponsors and loyal supporters. And that’s a good way of looking at it. But despite not letting the Newlands faithful down, the Stormers can also use the fixture to further check out their personnel, especially at centre. With so many injuries in midfield, there are not many to check out, but the pairing of fit-again Damian de Allende and EW Vijloen is definitely one to rate before the other centres return (Huw Jones is expected back next week and Juan de Jongh and Shaun Treeby could be back just in time for the quarters). Fleck can experiment with the loose trio this week, after Rynhardt Elstadt received a one-match ban. And need I say that this will be another chance to allow Damian Willemse to show us what he can do? 4 Shake off that rustiness After the Stormers’ tight 40-34 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, Fleck said that they were still a bit rusty in certain areas after the Test break. Some of that rustiness showed in Bloem, like their defence at times and definitely in terms of their discipline, but the Stormers can now shake it off completely against the Sunwolves to make sure that they are as smooth as possible come the Bulls.
5 The final checklist Apart from their defence (which became increasingly impressive as the game progressed) and ill-discipline that saw them concede a string of penalties, and yellow cards to Pieter-Steph du Toit and Elstadt, the Stormers can use this as a final check. Whether it’s ruck infringements or scrummaging headaches, the Stormers can find the perfect remedy for whatever the problems are before they head to Loftus next weekend.
IN THE RUNNING: Fit-again Damian de Allende will be one of a few midfield options Robbie Fleck and Co would like to test thsi week.