One more chance for Fleck to tick the boxes

It’s not about me, it’s about this gen­er­a­tion of Storm­ers, says Schalk

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - WYNONA LOUW

NO MAT­TER how much they have tried to deny it, the Storm­ers would only be hu­man if they were look­ing past to­day’s game against the Kings to next week’s quar­ter-fi­nal.

The re­al­ity is while the Storm­ers may not have any­thing to lose this evening at New­lands in terms of log points, their gen­eral per­for­mance will be ab­so­lutely cru­cial in terms of their prepa­ra­tion for a likely show­down against New Zealand op­po­nents.

Fleck said this week that he wants his team to play at a level that they haven’t reached this sea­son. He wants them to in­crease their in­ten­sity in or­der to be ready for whomever they will face next Saturday.

The Storm­ers – and their fans – know full well that they have not played a New Zealand team this sea­son, and to­day’s game will in many ways serve as a fi­nal check­list be­fore the all- im­por­tant play­offs.

Storm­ers cap­tain Schalk Burger, has of course “been there and done that” when it comes to knock­out matches.

“I have ob­vi­ously been here for a re­ally long time. I have been cap­tain in var­i­ous sea­sons. This is my last league game for the Storm­ers, but hope­fully there is a few more to come,” he said. “We have got a quar­ter- fi­nal next week and who knows what can hap­pen af­ter that.”

“But it’s not about me, it’s about this gen­er­a­tion of Storm­ers play­ers and how we can im­prove ( ahead of the quar­ter- fi­nals).

“But I’m go­ing to en­joy it. The beer starts tast­ing bet­ter at my age when you sur­vive a good 80 min­utes when you are play­ing against 26- year- olds. So noth­ing changes this week­end.”

“Ob­vi­ously in the quar­ter- fi­nals, some­thing we haven’t en­coun­tered this year, we are go­ing to en­counter a New Zealand side.

“We will prep as well as we can. There is not much we can do about their prep. If we can ex­e­cute our plans and play in the right area of the field, we can put them un­der pres­sure as well.”

The Kings aren’t un­der any il­lu­sions ei­ther. They won’t be hold­ing too tightly to the hope of bag­ging only their third Su­per Rugby win this sea­son.

And who can blame them. Yes, the Kings are 17th on the over­all log, but there have been times this sea­son where they have hung in there.

They did it against the High­landers in Port El­iz­a­beth, when Jamie Josephs’ team strug­gled through­out the match and fi­nally put the Kings away with 10 min­utes to go. Last week we saw it again against the Lions. Jo­han Ack­er­mann’s side came alive in the last quar­ter, but the Kings were still very much in the game at El­lis Park shortly af­ter half­time. Fleck was say­ing all the right things about the Kings this week, and he made a valid point when he said: “If you dis­re­spect them as a team you can get caught short. They’re a dif­fi­cult team to play. It looks like they play with a lot of pas­sion for each other, and that al­ways makes them a dif­fi­cult side.

“So we cer­tainly need to be at our best to beat them.”

The Storm­ers’ set- piece su­pe­ri­or­ity has brought them far this sea­son. Their for­wards have ef­fec­tively laid the foun­da­tion for at­tack. We’ve seen some bril­liant in­di­vid­ual touches, es­pe­cially from the likes of young fly­half Jean- Luc du Plessis.

Al­though they have clearly tried to play with more at­tack­ing in­tent, the ex­e­cu­tion hasn’t al­ways been great, and their oneon- one tack­ling has also been prob­lem­atic at times.

So, al­though the re­sult is of sec­ondary im­por­tance, there are a few in­di­vid­u­als, like Huw Jones, Louis Schreuder and Alis­tair Ver­maak, who will be closely scru­ti­nised to­day.

Jones had his danc­ing shoes on last week and with a ques­tion mark still hang­ing over the fit­ness of fel­low cen­tre Daniel du Plessis, it will be im­por­tant for Fleck that Jones and Damian de Al­lende gel in mid­field.

Schreuder has had an up- and­down ca­reer at the Storm­ers and Western Prov­ince, but with Nic Groom also un­der an in­jury cloud, the No 9 needs a good show­ing against the Kings.

Ver­maak can be rea­son­ably sat­is­fied with his show­ing in the scrums against the Force last week but he, too, can pro­vide some as­sur­ance for his coach with a strong game this week­end.

TIME TO HIT THE DANCE FLOOR: Huw Jones will have an op­por­tu­nity to show­case his nifty foot­work in mid­field.

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