Stormers dare not underestimate Sunwolves

Super Rugby

CAPE TOWN – Stormers coach Robbie Fleck knows that their match against the Sunwolves on Saturday can turn into a “dog fight” if they don’t show the Japanese side enough respect.

And given the 17-17 scare the Stormers got when they faced the Sunwolves at the National Stadium last year, they don’t need any reminding of how things can go down if they don’t prepare properly.

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All eyes will be on wing Seabelo Senatla for the Stormers. Photo: Chris Ricco, BackpagePixTighthead prop Wilco Louw makes a welcome return to the Stormers front row. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky, BackpagePix

They couldn’t get any training in due to the weather conditions last year, and they also travelled a day later.

But this time the Stormers enjoyed three training sessions in the build-up to the match, and they also left South Africa a day earlier – which can do a lot for the players in terms of getting their sleeping patterns right before the match.

But one thing that the Stormers couldn’t do differently, something that was out of their control, was go to Singapore with a full-strength side.

They couldn’t do it last year due to players being rested as part of the Springbok management plan and because a number of their key players were injured. And now it’s an ugly case of déjà vu for the Cape side.

But luckily the Stormers have depth – which is always a good thing. But that depth comes in especially handy now that Fleck has some promising young talent that he wants to expose to Super Rugby.

“In the backline, there’s only one guy that was part of the group that travelled here last time. So it’s fairly new to them,” Fleck said.

“We’ve made it clear that this is a tough place to come and play because of the environment and the conditions and certainly the opposition. But the new faces bring lots of energy, and they’re excited to go out there and play.”

Some of those “new faces” include Junior Bok flank Cobus Wiese and prop Caylib Oosthuizen, who will be looking to make their Super Rugby and Stormers debuts respectively.

And while he’s not exactly a “new” face, Sevens try-master Seabelo Senatla will definitely add to that excitement and energy when he runs out with the No 11 on his back.

And the fact that he will feature in an already attractive Stormers backline should make his chances of upsetting the Japanese fans even better.

Another young face will be that of tighthead prop Wilco Louw, returning to the starting front row, and he should be looking to build on that scrum dominance that he so impressively subjected the Bulls to in the opening round of the competition.

Tthe Sunwolves are a clever set-piece unit and their low scrummaging technique is a tough one to get under (literally), so if the Stormers were looking for affirmation of just how good their own scrummaging efforts have become, then the Sunwolves will be a good measure of that.

But the Sunwolves won’t just be a progress indicator for the Stormers, as they will also be looking to further improve on their performances – like they have over the past two weeks.

Tighthead prop Wilco Louw makes a welcome return to the Stormers front row. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky, BackpagePix

They had it tough against the Hurricanes at the start of the competition and they weren’t too great against the Kings either, but they ran the Cheetahs and the Bulls close.

And Fleck was almost certain that the Sunwolves would want to continue giving big South African teams a tough time.

“The Sunwolves are a hard-working team and they’re a side that you can’t put away, they keep working. They’re very good at keeping the ball for extended periods and they keep it well,” Fleck said.

“The Bulls and the Cheetahs probably disrespected them a bit, and that made it a dog fight.

“So we respect them. And after last year and what happened in terms of their improvement over the last two games, we certainly have got our work cut out. They play very similar to what the Highlanders played, so you can definitely see Jamie Joseph’s hand there. But we’re looking forward to it.”

Teams For Singapore

Sunwolves: 15 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 14 Shota Emi, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Jumpei Ogura, 9 Keisuke Uchida, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Shokei Kin, 6 Ed Quirk (captain), 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Heiichiro Ito, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Koki Yamamoto.

Bench: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Uwe Helu, 20 Shumei Matsuhashi, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Hayden Cripps, 23 Ryohei Yamanaka

Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Siya Kolisi (captain), 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.

Bench: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Oli Kebble, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Cobus Wiese, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Dan du Plessis.

Referee: Federico Anselmi. Kickoff: 12:55pm.

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