CAPE TOWN - The Stormers survived Round 13 despite their flyhalf crisis, but it might be time for coach Robbie Fleck to make a few changes ahead of their match against the Sharks in Durban.
In the Stormers’ 30-22 win over the Blues at Newlands on Friday, Dillyn Leyds took charge at flyhalf in the absence of Robert du Preez, who tore his pectoral muscle against the Hurricanes in New Zealand.
Leyds, who has featured at wing and occasionally at fullback for the Stormers this season, was one of three possible flyhalf candidates against the Blues - the other two being Joe Pietersen and Brandon Thomson.
Pietersen has been involved in more of a mentorship role to the many young Stormers players, while Thomson, who has spent some time with Glasgow overseas, has been featuring for John Dobson’s side in the Supersport Rugby Challenge.
Although he did a decent job in the first half, the smooth rhythm one expects from a flyhalf just wasn’t there, and you could see he was not a regular at No 10. He overcooked a few kicks to touch and his game management was a bit hesitant. He did better in the second half, but it’s clear that he would bring so much more value to the team out wide.
So although Leyd’s performance wasn’t bad, Fleck should perhaps review his options in the position if Jean-Luc du Plessis won’t be fit and ready for their meeting with the Sharks (Fleck said last week that he was making good progress and that he could make his return soon).
Thomson and Pietersen are currently the Stormers’ only pivot options along with Leyds for their Round 14 match, and it might be worth a shot to look at Thomson this week, He’s been in good form for Dobson’s side. And he is a natural flyhalf.
Another issue Fleck will have to take care of this week is his midfield combination.
The Stormers will be without Shaun Treeby, who has been suspended for three weeks for a dangerous tackle on Blues No 10 Piers Francis, ruling him out of the Stormers’ games against the Sharks, the Cheetahs and the Sunwolves.
Damian de Allende looked good,when he came on for EW Viljoen at the weekend, including one delightful offload, and that promising performance is at least a positive for the Stormers, who now only have De Allende, Viljoen and Juan de Jongh as midfield resources.
De Allende is of course the Stormers’ only available inside centre, and his performance against the Blues will add a bit of positivity to that troubling scenario (provided he doesn’t get injured, that is).
At No 13, Viljoen hasn’t yet emulated the form he showed in the first six rounds of Super Rugby (to be fair, the opposition over the past few weeks have done well to limit his options), and given the fact that De Jongh has enjoyed some game time with the Supersport Challenge side, he might be ready to enter the rough waters of Super Rugby again since recovering from injury.
Speaking of experience, the Stormers might benefit from giving scrumhalf Jano Vermaak a starting berth again ahead of Dewaldt Duvenage.
Duvenage hasn’t been bad in all areas, but greater speed at the rucks would do a lot for the Stormers’ attack, and his off-target box kicks haven’t helped that cause either.
Although the Stormers are in no real trouble of losing their top spot in the Africa 1 conference (they’re 15 points clear of the second-placed Bulls), building confidence again is going to be crucial as we approach the last rounds of the group stages.