The Stormers will host the Australians following their 37-20 win over the Blues last week, compliments of an inspiring first half performance. And while they looked great against Tana Umaga’s team, it wasn’t the same on their three-match tour to Australasia.
Last weekend, the Stormers were solid at the set-piece, put the opposition under huge pressure with their line speed, and strung together good attacking opportunities against a Blues side that was far from perfect.
That Stormers fire didn’t burn as strongly in the second 40 as it did in the first, but they managed to put the Blues away to record their second Super Rugby win in five matches after three defeats on tour to the Waratahs, the Crusaders and the Highlanders.
On tour things weren’t as positive as they were in those first 40 minutes against the Blues, but in Christchurch the Stormers managed to fight back after a terrible opening quarter, although that raised more questions about their ability to perform for 80 minutes. They looked better against the Highlanders, and Fleck now wants to see the positives he identified in their last four games carried into their clash with the Reds today: “They have some good ball-carriers –two or three in the backline – and they’ve got good loose forwards. So we’re going to have to front up and put them under pressure. I think the stuff we showed we can do overseas and in that first half against the Blues we can certainly implement."
While the Stormers have been struggling to get consistency, the Reds have a good record early in their Super Rugby campaign. And Fleck said Brad Thorne’s improved team will be a good challenge. “They don’t have too many weaknesses. They’ve won three out of four and they’ve been winning on the road, so it’s going to be a good challenge.
“Brad Thorne has installed a few good things there; everything he stood for as a player. He’s got that looseness out of their game, and that makes them a more balanced side.”
The Stormers mentor highlighted the fact that the Reds have a couple of dangerous players, but his side don’t lack in that department at all either.
In an exciting backline, fullback Craig Barry – who will get his first start for the Stormers today – will get to show what he can do at this level, while the rest of the Stormers backs have a chance to replicate their promising showings of last week.
Up front, Cobus Wiese returns to the starting line-up at blindside flank with Pieter-Steph du Toit moving back to No5 lock. And both of these players’ contributions in those positions will be ones to watch. And after the magical performance he put in last week, flyhalf Damian Willemse is going to be on everyone’s radar. If the Stormers can play like they did against the Blues, they have a shot at getting their campaign on track, properly.