Stormers aim to take control
STORMERS coach Robbie Fleck has emphasised the importance of controlling the game against the Sunwolves right from the start as they’re expecting to face “seriously challenging” conditions in Hong Kong tomorrow (kick-off 7.15am).
The weather conditions they’ll face is undoubtedly going to be the toughest they’ve encountered this year. With conditions forecast at 32 degrees and humidity at 90 percent according to reports, one of the biggest storms Robbie Fleck’s charges will have to weather this weekend will be playing “on their terms” to get the much-needed win.
“The conditions are more extreme than what we experienced in Singapore (when they last played the Sunwolves), it’s going to be challenging, so how we play is important if we want to win this game,” Fleck said yesterday.
“The conditions are actually crazy, training has been challenging ... the guys have been putting ice in their boots. It’s 31 degrees and the humidity is quite radical, so it’ll be interesting to see how both teams go.”
Fleck has made a couple of changes for their second-last game before the international break
In the back row, skipper Siya Kolisi moves to the bench as his workload is being managed, while Kobus van Dyk is joined in the loose trio by Nizaam Carr and Cobus Wiese at No 8 and No 7 respectively. Sikhumbuzo Notshe will feature off the bench.
Chris van Zyl will start at No 4 lock again and take over the captaincy, and in the front row JC Janse van Rensburg comes into the run-on side at loosehead prop to replace the injured Steven Kitshoff, while Carlu Sadie and Jan de Klerk both get a spot among the replacements.
In the backline, Jean-Luc du Plessis will get his first start for the Stormers this season after coming off the bench in their last two fixtures. Du Plessis takes over the No 10 jersey from Damian Willemse, who has joined the Junior Boks for the World Rugby Under-20 Championships. Speedster Seabelo Senatla also comes into the starting XV, with centre EW Viljoen returning to action on the bench after being rested for two games.
With fatigue likely to visit early, Fleck said that he’s likely to ring the changes early on to keep fresh legs on the field throughout the encounter.
“The bench are going to have to play a major role and they’ll probably come on early. The one we selected is an exciting bench and they can make a real impact. Everyone is going to have to play their role,” Fleck said of his selections.
While the Stormers chief said that they’re not planning on deviating from their style or how they want to play, he added that they’re going to have to be “tactically smart” and “play to their strengths” tomorrow.
“We don’t want to slow the game down or anything like that, but I think it’s going to be a real tactical game for both teams if the conditions are the way they are. The game is played at one, so tactically we’re going to have to be really smart in that humidity.
“We’re going to have to be pretty smart tactically. We need to play it on our terms and we need to control the game from the outset. We need to play to our strengths.
“Like we said last week, we certainly have to win every game going forward.”
The Stormers and the Sunwolves could possibly serve another Super Rugby first this season – a full stadium.
The Mong Kok Stadium – which normally hosts Hong Kong Premier League football matches – has a seating capacity of only 6 769, and given that it’s Super Rugby’s debut in Hong Kong, we could see quite a turnout.
And it’s a possibility that Fleck is looking forward to.
“When these small stadiums are packed they tend to have a great atmosphere and a great vibe.”
Fleck also said that the Sunwolves pose a number of threats, threats that could – combined with the conditions – make it a difficult afternoon if the Stormers don’t bring their A-game.