CAPE TOWN - How do you motivate yourself when you are playing a team that just got whipped 94-7? 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 five reasons why the Stormers must somehow try and ignore those 94-7 figures.
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 (either the Chiefs or the Hurricanes). So, knowing who their possible opponents could be should be motivation enough to give their all and build on the momentum 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 to the team’s psyche.
A big win against the Sunwolves at Newlands, and another one against the Bulls next weekend, will do a lot for the momentum. And momentum, and confidence, is definitely going to be vital from here on.
Beware of the wounded wolf
There are few things more galvanising than having to play for respect. And after the weekend the Sunwolves had, they will be hungry to earn some respect again. They need to. But you don’t even have to think of this as an isolated case - as the Super Rugby competition has showed us over many, many years, a team can take an absolute whipping one week and come back and beat their next opposition (often unexpectedly) the next. And if that doesn’t say enough, I don’t know what will.
Another chance to get those combinations right
Assistant coach Paul Feeney was asked whether they would put out their strongest-possible side and risk injuries to key players, or if they would rather play it safe, Feeney said the Stormers were planning on naming a very strong side and 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 in midfield. With so many injuries in midfield, there are very few players 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 quarter-finals).
Then there’s also the loose trio that Fleck can experiment with this week, after Rynhardt Elstadt received a one-match ban for his red-card against the Cheetahs. And need I say that this will be another chance to allow Damian Willemse to show us what he can do?
Shake off that rustiness
After the Stormers’ tight 40-34 win over the Cheetahs, Fleck said they were still a bit rusty in certain areas after the break due to the international Test series. Some of that rustiness obviously 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 game.
The final checklist
Apart from their defence (which became increasingly impressive as the game progressed) and their ill-discipline that saw them concede a string of penalties and play with 14 men twice in the game after yellow cards to Pieter-Steph du Toit and Elstadt, the Stormers can use their match against the Sunwolves as a final checklist (well, sort of, the final one will be against the Bulls). Whether it’s ruck infringements or scrummaging aches, the Stormers can find the perfect remedy for whatever the problem before they head to Loftus next week.