CAPE TOWN - While the Stormers are definitely out of contention when it comes to the Super Rugby playoffs, their game against the Jaguares on Saturday is still a big one. It’s obviously been a disappointing year for Robbie Fleck’s team.
With only five wins in 14 games and a few performances and losses that just cannot be excused - like defeats to the Waratahs and Sunwolves - I doubt anybody would have predicted the 2018 season would play out quite like this for the side. While their first two seasons under Fleck weren’t flawless, the fact the Stormers made the quarter-finals in both 2016 and 2017 - although the competition format also played a part - in hindsight adds an even more bitter taste to their work in 2018.
To call the Stormers’ 2018 season disastrous might be a little harsh. After all, they have looked good at times - like in their home games against the Blues and the Bulls - but inconsistency has been their worst enemy, while their failure to perform for 80 minutes also made a few fixtures rather unpleasant ones for the men in blue and white, escpecailly on their tour to Australasia.
With two games left - against this year’s suprise package, the Jaguares, in Buenos Aires and the Sharks at Newlands - the Stormers’ troubling season should put even more importance on those games, even though it will make no difference to their chances. Ending the season on a positive note should surely do something to add some zest to their off- and pre-season preparations, while Fleck will obviously want to add a pair of victories to his patchy season resume.
And as important as the next two games should be, it may also help to see those matches as another opportunity to test some combinations, especially in the loose trio with Nizaam Carr moving to Wasps. The combination of Stormers and Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi - who could certainly have benefited from being rested for this game - Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Cobus Wiese or Kobus van Wyk is definitely one to zoom in on, while bringing somebody like Junior Springbok skipper Salmaan Moerat into the mix can also be telling.
At scrumhalf, it might also be a good time to get a closer look at Justin Phillips. So, while on face value it may look like there’s nothing hanging on the next two games, the significance on those matches will all depend on the approach... testing those combinations and just letting the guys play can be aspects where Fleck can gain extra insight. It’s a chances that Fleck might as well use to see what he has to work with in the future.