Rested Damian returns to boost Stormers backline
CAPE TOWN – Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says last year’s Currie Cup final gave them a good idea of what to expect from the Sharks in their must-win Super Rugby encounter at Newlands tomorrow (kick-off 3.05pm).
The fixture is crucial for both sides to secure a quarter-final spot.
In last year’s Currie Cup finale, John Dobson’s Western Province were favourites after going into the play-offs unbeaten. But the Sharks caused an upset in Cape Town.
It’s a game that helped their preparation a lot, according to the Stormers mentor.
“In that Currie Cup final they were abrasive and they slowed the game down. We’ve looked at what was successful for them last year and we’ve made plans for that,” Fleck said.
After being barnstormed by injuries in recent weeks, Fleck said they enjoyed some good continuity this week.
While the team lost Herschel Jantjies for the crunch match (collarbone), it was one of their easier weeks in terms of injuries as he was the only casualty against the Sunwolves.
In weeks before that, the injuries came in sets and groups, with Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Kobus van Dyk and Seabelo Senatla (he’s back this week) the recent injury list additions.
“It’s been a good week of preparation. It was probably better than the last two weeks in terms of injuries,” Fleck said during the team announcement yesterday.
“We were able to train effectively and finished strongly today (yesterday). So it’s been a good week. It was nice to have some continuity for once.”
The Stormers have welcomed back Bok centre Damian de Allende after he was rested last week.
And while Fleck said Jantjies would be missed for the role he played not only in attack but on defence and around the fringes as well, he’s looking forward to incorporating De Allende - who’s been in fine form in 2019 - back into things.
Senatla is also back in the mix on the wing after missing out last week due to concussion.
The return of De Allende and Senatla will give the Stormers backline a more balanced look - something much-needed given the weapons the Sharks possess.
“Herschel has been outstanding and he will be missed, not just from an attacking point of view. But I don’t think his loss is going to impact us too much in terms of how we want to play. I’m pretty happy with the next two guys.
“I thought Jano (Vermaak) did very well when he came on against the Sunwolves last week. Justin Phillips has also been with us the whole season so he knows how we want to play.
“Damian is such a key player. He’s been outstanding for us and he was missed against the Sunwolves in terms of just bringing a bit of direction.
“He’s been our link man, he’s brought us some momentum and he’s put some guys into space. His kicking game has also come on nicely.”
Jean-Luc du Plessis started at flyhalf in the Stormers’ penultimate regular-season game, and this week Josh Stander comes in.
Fleck, though, didn’t give any indication that Stander’s inclusion suggests that they’ll aim to kick more.
“I think the games Josh did play, he did well. We’re actually comfortable with Josh starting and JL coming off the bench.”
The Stormers are:
15 Dillyn Leyds 14 Seabelo Senatla 13 JJ Engelbrecht 12 Damian de Allende 11 Edwill van der Merwe 10 Josh Stander 9 Jano Vermaak 8 Jaco Coetzee 7 Johan du Toit 6 Ernst van Rhyn 5 Chris van Zyl 4 Cobus Wiese 3 Frans Malherbe 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni 17 Corné Fourie 18 Wilco Louw 19 David Meihuizen 20 Chris Massyn 21 Justin Phillips 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis 23 Dan Kriel.@WynonaLouw