CAPE TOWN - Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says May’s 22-10 defeat to the Sharks is “still lingering”, but he is confident they can hit the reset button in a proper way as they prepare to face the Cheetahs on Saturday.
In the coastal derby at Kings Park last month, the Sharks scored three tries to the Stormers’ one, with the most disappointing part of the visitors’ performance the handling errors, their poor decision-making and their predictability on attack.
Four weeks later, Fleck is confident hard work they put in during the recent break, as well as the contribution of the returning Springboks and Junior Boks, will help them get back on track as they go into the last three conference games.
“It’s still lingering there, but we have to move on. We let ourselves down against the Sharks. We weren’t happy with it, but we’ve had a good few weeks,” Fleck said.
“All our guys have come back nice and energised, and it was important that we trained extremely hard while the other guys were on Test duty. The spirit in the team is good.”
“It’s about getting going with the next part of our campaign. We now have to get the guys (who weren’t with the Springboks, the SA ‘A’ or the Junior Boks) on the same page as us and bring in some of the success they had and mix it up with our stuff.”
And although Fleck was optimistic about the spirit in his Stormers camp ahead of the match in Bloemfontein, he wasn’t expecting a picnic - despite the fact his team thrashed the Cheetahs 53-10 earlier this season.
“They are a different team on the back-end of the competition. They’re playing at home, we beat them convincingly, and I don’t think that will be the case again,” Fleck said. “I think that Franco will also take heart out of the Bok performances, so that gives him a lot of confidence as a coach as well.”
Meanwhile, Fleck will have a tough call to make regarding Bok prop Steven Kitshoff.
The loosehead, who was on fire when he featured for the Boks off the bench in Saturday’s Test against France, is still contracted to Bordeaux Begles until the end of this month, but he is available to boost the Stormers’ front row in the remaining three rounds of Super Rugby.
And with Oli Kebble out injured and Alistair Vermaak (calf strain) in doubt for Saturday’s match, Kitshoff can be a huge asset.
However, Fleck has to choose between using Kitshoff as a pre-playoff boost, or sticking to his current resources and building continuity, as Kitshoff’s selection for the quarter-finals seems unlikely.
Kitshoff falls short of the minimum number of games required for a player who was not part of a squad at the start of the season.
“He is available to play for us this week but at this point he isn’t available for the quarter-final, semi-final and final so we’d have to look at it and weigh it up,” Fleck said. “There are ways a player in his position can be included. For instance, if there are too many injuries in one position and you are down to players who doesn’t have Super Rugby experience, then you can apply for the player to be cleared.”
Other returning players include Rynhardt Elstadt, JC Janse van Rensburg and Dan Kriel, while Fleck confirmed that hooker Scarra Ntubeni was back at training, but not ready for selection.
Centre Huw Jones has also started training with the squad and is expected to be ready for the match against the Sunwolves next week, while Dan du Plessis (he dislocated his shoulder against the SWD Eagles at the weekend) and Damian de Allende are out with injury.