CAPE TOWN - If you enjoyed the kind of rugby the Stormers put on show in their 53-10 thumping of the Cheetahs at Newlands last Saturday, you’re sure to enjoy their clash against the Chiefs - regardless of the jersey you’ll be wearing.
That is the opinion of Stormers chief Robbie Fleck, who on Tuesday said that their triumph over the Free State team was a good indication of the progress they’ve made until now, while he also acknowledged that the real “test” will be against the Kiwis on Saturday.
The Chiefs will be the first New Zealand opposition the Stormers will face in a tough Super Rugby draw this season.
And given that 60-21 embarrassment the Stormers suffered at the hands of Dave Rennie’s team last year, the Stormers are keen to erase that memory with an improved performance this time around.
“Whether you’re a Chiefs supporter or a Stormers supporter, bring your support and watch a great game of rugby. Last year was disappointing and we’ve had to live with that, but I think what the players dished out last week was a good indication of where we’re going and the fans enjoyed that, so I think the fans will enjoy this one,” Fleck said at his team’s training base in Bellville on Tuesday.
“Whether you’re in a Chiefs jersey or a Stormers jersey, please, we’d like you to come to Newlands and enjoy a game of rugby, that’s what rugby is about.
“Both teams will be well supported and that’s awesome.”
The Stormers looked a better team than last year when they opened their 2017 season with a massive win over the Bulls, and since then, there have been increasingly positive signs of improvement in terms of the Stormers’ new attacking approach (the game against the Cheetahs was an especially good indication of that).
But now they will go up against the masters of attacking rugby and silky offloads (that statement can refer to any New Zealand team, really), and Fleck said that a good performance against the Chiefs won’t just be a positive for Stormers rugby, but also for South African rugby as a whole.
“It’s the first game against a New Zealand side this season and it gives us the opportunity to see how far we’ve come. We certainly can see that there’s improvement, but this is the test," he said.
“This is the team that put us to the sword last year, and it’s important that we show signs of improvement on Saturday again.
“We’ve trained incredibly hard for this game, and whatever the result, as long as we can all see that we’re moving on and upwards, we’ll be a happy bunch.
“I’d love it if we could get a full Newlands. It’s such an important game for both teams, both teams are unbeaten it’s an important game for South African rugby to see how far we’ve come. I think it will be a great spectacle.”
One key figure who will miss out on the Newlands spectacle is Chiefs skipper Sam Cane, who sustained a concussion against the Bulls at the weekend.
And while most teams would probably be relieved if they didn’t have to face Cane, Fleck said that although the All Black is an instrumental part of the Chiefs’ outfit, they have a number of “big” players in their team.
“He (Cane) personifies what the Chiefs are about - it’s all about attitude and aggression and heart, you know,” Fleck said.
“He’s a big player for them, but they’ve certainly got others. Liam Messam is an inspirational leader for them, there’s Aaron Cruden, Brodie Retallick - one of the best locks in the world they can just keep ticking the boxes.”
Fleck also said that the Chiefs’ team culture was something that his team are also working towards, and added that the result of such a “special” culture shows in the Chiefs team.
“What for me is really strong that comes from the Chiefs is their culture and what they stand for," Fleck said.
“It’s easy for a youngster to get into their system and understand what they’re about and what their purpose is.
“So anybody who plays for the Chiefs under Dave Rennie is going to be a good player, and any leader in that group is going to be pretty inspirational. We’re trying to create something similar here, something special.
“Our culture is starting to grow strong and stronger as we go along. It’s going to be a cracker of a match and I think we’re all looking forward to it.”