Stormers skipper Siya Kolisi says their main focus for their opening Super Rugby match against the Jaguares today is to employ everything they’ve worked on during the pre-season.
The Stormers will kick off their Super Rugby campaign against the Argentines at Newlands (3.05pm kickoff) before going on tour – where they will face the Waratahs, the Crusaders and the Highlanders.
Kolisi explained the team have put a lot of work into their fitness and their conditioning during the pre-season as they want to continue playing exciting rugby in 2018, and added that they know what to expect from the Jaguares side.
“We’re excited. We had a good pre-season and we obviously want to be better than we were last year. I felt that last year we improved from the previous year,” the Springbok loose forward said.
“We want to play good rugby, good exciting rugby so we had to work pretty hard on our fitness and our conditioning during the pre-season. This first game is the most important game of the season because we have to hit the ground running.
"We know what kind of team they are so we’ve prepared for them, but our main focus is we get everything right that we worked on during the pre-season.”
“Come Sunday it will be good to travel with a victory behind us. “
Last year, the Stormers boasted an impressive winning streak before they succumbed to the Lions just before going on tour...a tour during which they suffered harsh defeats to the Crusaders, the Highlanders and the Hurricanes.
And if you keep that in mind, it’s not hard to see why coach Robbie Fleck regards today’s opener as a must-win.
“Tours are tough. Last year we had six (wins) in a row then we lost to the Lions before we went on tour, that had a bit of an impact.
"We have to win this game before we go on tour,” Fleck said.
While the Stormers can certainly feel comfortable with their powerhouse, all-Bok front row in Wilco Louw, Bongi Mbonambi and Steven Kitshoff, they will be without their Springbok second-row pairing of Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit due to injury – a worrying factor seeing that Kolisi is rightfully expecting a battle up front.
But if you look at their current duo of JD Schickerling and Chris van Zyl and the season they had last year – although their game time was mostly in Currie Cup currency – it’s understandable Kolisi feels confident about the two of them, especially Schickerling, the Calvinia-born 22-year-old, standing in for his Springbok teammates.
“With them (Jaguares) we know it always start with their pack up front. We are going to be tested, but we’ll test them as well. So it’s going to be a good challenge,” the captain said.
“We’re looking forward to it. We know they’re a very good scrumming team and we back our scrum as well.
"The mauling battle and the contesting of the lineouts are also going to be important.”
“Pickles (Van Zyl) and JD did very well in the Currie Cup. It’s tough that we don’t have Eben and Pieter-Steph, but I think it’s a great opportunity for Pickles and JD.”
“We are confident we’ve worked hard enough and anybody in the squad can come in and play.”
Kolisi also said that Fleck focused a lot on their breakdown work – and just as well, seeing that the Jaguares will come at the Stormers with a superb back row in the form of captain Pable Matera, Javier Ortego Desio and Tomas Lezana.
“It might be a tough game in which we won’t be able to show our skills, we’re just going to have to get stuck in at the breakdowns, but we’re looking forward to that. Coach Fleckie worked us hard in that department. “
And while the Jaguares’ scrummaging and their breakdown work make a contest against the Stormers in those departments a mouthwatering one, the Stormers’ backline in particular is also a unit to watch.
Teams For Newlands
Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Bench: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Kobus van Dyk, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 George Whitehead, 23 JJ Engelbrecht.
Jaguares: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertanou, 8 Tomas Lezana, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera (captain), 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Felipe Arregui.
Bench: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Javier Diaz, 18 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Marcos Kremer, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Juan Martin Hernandez, 23 Bautista Delguy.