Stormers coach Robbie Fleck is confident his “new team and new campaign” can “get through” their quarter-final match against the Chiefs at Newlands on Saturday (5pm kickoff).
At a press conference at the team’s training base in Bellville yesterday, Fleck said that the common knowledge of the Stormers’ struggles to progress to the finals won’t be a focus for them as they get ready to host the Kiwi side in a play-off match again after last year’s 60-21 quarter-final horror at the same venue.
The Stormers coach added that his team were a very different unit this time around, and also said that he believes their tour to New Zealand and their successful home games against the Chiefs and Blues served as good preparation – unlike last year, where they faced a New Zealand opponent for the first time in the quarter-finals.
“It is what it is in terms of quarter-finals. We haven’t won those matches, but this is a new team and a new campaign. Everyone brings it up – how the Stormers don’t get through. We’ll get through this time, that’s going to be our focus,” Fleck said.
“We know that there’s lots of pressure, but we can’t dwell on that. We’re a fitter side, we’re well-balanced, and we’ve improved our structures. The fact that we’ve played against five New Zealand sides has been good learning for us.
“They’ve got some big players back and they’re a near full-strength side, but so are we. We certainly are looking forward to it.”
When asked what they would do to get a different result this time, Fleck said that he believed the key was to keeping things simple and just to stick to what has worked for them until now. And he was also confident that they could bag another win against Dave Rennie’s Chiefs, just like they did back in April.
“We know what we’re facing, we have to be at our best. When this team is challenged, we tend to front up and put in our best performance. We know what we have to do this weekend and we know what they bring to the table. But we’ve done it before so there’s no reason why we can’t do it again,” Fleck said.
“We’re not thinking about the semi-finals. We’ve just got to keep going with what has made us successful this year. We have to keep it simple and make sure that there’s complete clarity among the players and management on what we have to do.
"They certainly will be up for it. They showed what they can do at Newlands a year ago, but we also showed what we could do a couple of months ago.”
Prior to the Stormers’ game against the Bulls at the weekend, Fleck said that he wanted physical confrontation from the Bulls to help them prepare for the play-offs, while they also wanted to keep the ball in play as much as possible.
And while Fleck feels that they’ve made some strides in those areas this past weekend, he acknowledged that their defence will have to be better come Saturday and their individual errors will have to be minimised.
Meanwhile, the injury bug chose the perfect weekend to leave the Stormers untouched, as Fleck confirmed that there were no casualties from the last pool-stage game at the weekend. In fact, they will receive a few timely boosts.
Both loose forward Rynhardt Elstadt and prop Wilco Louw have recovered and they will be in line for selection this week, while fullback SP Marais is also fit.
Centre Shaun Treeby is still struggling with a rib injury and he won’t be considered for selection, while scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage hasn’t been cleared for selection either.
Up front, props Oli Kebble and Alistair Vermaak have been considered fit and available.