CAPE TOWN – Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says Craig Barry has got exactly the same role to play against the Reds tomorrow (5.15pm kickoff) as Dillyn Leyds - who will miss the match due to a calf injury.
Barry will make his first start for the Stormers after making his debut off the bench against the Blues last week, and the Stormers mentor said that Barry - who rejoined the Cape side from the Cheetahs amid another injury predicament - has been encouraged to “roam and to pop up anywhere he wants to”, just like Leyds.
“We’re fortunate enough to have Craig in our system. He played well for the Cheetahs and he’s certainly been training well for us. It’s an opportunity for him to start in his favourite position, so we’ll see how he goes,” Fleck said yesterday.
“Craig is encouraged as much as Dillyn is to roam and to pop up anywhere he wants to, that’s how we see our fullback playing. Dillyn will be missed - he’s a senior player in our group and a key decision-maker. It would have been great to have him, he would have played a consecutive game in the same position, but Craig’s got exactly the same role to play.”
Leyds started at No 15 last week in the place of the injured SP Marais, and earlier this week, Fleck said that he feels for Leyds - who’s had to move between fullback and wing and even flyhalf, which greatly impacts his consistency.
The game against the Australians would have been Leyds’ second consecutive game at fullback, a position he’s looked superb in.
When asked if Leyds’ absence will put more pressure on flyhalf Damian Willemse, Fleck explained that Damian de Allende, Dewaldt Duvenage and EW Viljoen are there to help the youngster handle the pressure.
And if you look at what the head coach had to say about the exciting pivot, it’s clear that Fleck is pretty confident about Willemse’s ability to cope.
Fleck was asked if he thinks Willemse is ready for a Springbok call-up, and said: “I’ve always had the firm belief that if he’s good enough, play him.
“Right now I think he is good enough. I don’t think he’ll be overawed at Test level, as long as you surround him with the right people. It’s such a key position for a young kid. I think if Rassie (Erasmus) does call him up I’d think and expect that they’d manage him correctly.
“As a talent and as a player and in terms of ability and mindset, he’s definitely not afraid to play at that level. He can. The accolades that he’s been given post-games in New Zealand from players like Aaron Cruden and Stephen Donald and from New Zealand coaches they all think he’s a star in the making.
“Guys like Damian McKenzie have played at a young age, so why not, if he’s got the ability.
“He’s managing his game better, he’s not there yet, I think it’s still a work in progress for him and it’s probably the biggest challenge for any (No) 10, to control the match and keep their forwards on the front foot and being able to play backwards as well. So those are all things I think he’s certainly grown in, but he’s still got a fair bit to go. His growth will come quickly because he’s always willing to learn and he wants to become better.
“It’s exciting to see where he can go.”
And while Willemse has created a lot of excitement in the backline, another player who’s been in top form if Cobus Wiese.
Wiese’s return to the starting line-up is one of three changes to the Stormers’ pack that played against the Blues.
In the front row JC Janse van Rensburg will start at loosehead prop in a rotational switch with Steven Kitshoff, while tighthead prop Carlu Sadie and loose forwards Kobus van Dyk and Sikhumbuzo Notshe are also back in the matchday squad after missing out last week due to flu.
Pieter-Steph du Toit, who started at blindside flank against the Blues, moves back to No 5 lock, with Wiese coming in at 7.
“With Cobus Wiese recovering from the flu I think it’s important that we give him another start. He was outstanding against the Crusaders and we’re looking for much of the same from him. He gets around the park, he’s got a healthy work rate and he’s quite a destructive ball-carrier,” Fleck said about Wiese’s recent performances.
And on their goals for this weekend, Fleck said: “We need to continue the form that we showed in the last game and we need to up it by another 10 percent. We need a good win to carry some momentum into our game at Loftus.