CAPE TOWN – Last week, the Stormers were revved up for Bulls revenge when they regained some of their pride that was trampled into the Loftus Versfeld turf at the beginning of the season.
But the big question against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires tonight (9.40pm SA time kickoff) is whether that was again just a once-off?
Coach Robbie Fleck’s team has been a model of consistent inconsistency this season.
They enjoyed a three-game winning streak after the massacre in Pretoria, which included a bonus-point win over the Jaguares, before following it up with a hat trick of defeats on their Australasian tour.
Hope was restored in the final tour game against the Rebels, before the Brumbies brought them straight back down to earth the following week on home turf.
So, if everything goes according to the form book, the Stormers should not come out on the right side at the Estadio José Amalfitani, following their Bulls redemption last week.
To buck this worrying trend, they will certainly need to do it the hard way.
A trio of Springboks are missing in the forward pack, and to make matters worse, they are the influential ones – captain Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Frans Malherbe.
Considering the Jaguares are a virtual Test side, the young men tasked with maintaining the momentum in Argentina will certainly return to Cape Town with a few more hairs on their chest, for the hosts are anything but hospitable.
The Jaguares play the game hard, and they play the game fast. In fact, they boast the quickest ruck ball in Super Rugby.
And it’s for this reason that Fleck has entrusted Jaco Coetzee to fill the big boots of Kolisi this week, despite the 22-year-old having only turned out at the back of the scrum thus far this season.
“We had earmarked Jaco as an out-and-out No 6 to support Siya in that role, but he ended playing at No 8 because of a couple of injuries and did really well,” said Fleck.
“I feel that Jaco is an excellent replacement for Siya in the sense that his defence is really strong, and he is really hard on to the ball.
“His carrying ability is also well documented. He certainly is quite a dynamic No 6, and we are looking forward to seeing how he goes against a side that thrives on the attacking breakdown.
“We are going to have to slow them down, whether that’s in tackle dominance or at the breakdown, hence Jaco’s inclusion.”
Speed is the buzzword this week, be it at the breakdown or out wide, with the Stormers set to slot fullback Damian Willemse into the flyhalf role at some stage of the game just to get former Blitzbok superstar Seabelo Senatla on to the park.
“Seabelo came on last week and showed us that he is growing in confidence. The try that he scored, he showed good energy, good footwork and good lines.
“We’re definitely going to need his (Senatla) pace out wide because this game is going to be played at a high tempo, and the Jaguares have some fleet-footed guys in their team,” Fleck said.
“Damian will cover flyhalf for us, which we’re pretty excited about. The form he is in at the moment, we are pretty comfortable that he’s getting more involved and being a second set of hands there.”