CAPE TOWN - A full game for Ramone Samuels and start with Seabelo Senatla and EW Viljoen. That is what I would do if I was Robbie Fleck as he tries to figure out how to beat the mighty Crusaders in their hometown this weekend.
Ahead of the Stormers’ 34-27 Super Rugby loss to the Waratahs in Sydney, Fleck said that given the Tahs’ game, it was going to be important for his pack to be mobile and to have “fresh legs” on the pitch.
Those fresh legs were seen when Fleck made a number of changes later in the game, but one thing that stood out was the fact that not all of the changes made a notable difference in the ding-dong match at the Sydney Football Stadium for the right reasons.One of those changes was in the front row.
In the first half of the contest, hooker Samuels had one of his best outings in the Stormers jersey, and unfortunately, his work in the loose was perhaps overshadowed by the one overthrown lineout ball he was guilty of at the end of the first 40.
But other than that gaffe, he had a good outing. So I don’t understand why the Stormers coaching staff felt the need to replace Samuels with Dean Muir later on. Muir was involved in two terrible lineout glitches - with the last one proving the killer blow for the Stormers, as his overthrow that landed in Waratahs hands led to the try that stole the victory.
Muir surely wasn’t the only one to blame for what went down at the set-piece, as the Stormers men in the lineout should probably have kept it simple knowing that they weren’t exactly dealing with their first-choice hooker. Simplification would have been key - especially since they just had to retain possession and then kick the ball out as the siren had already went.
I get that match fitness could be a factor when it comes to how long Samuels stays on the field as he’s acted as Bongi Mbonambi’s back-up since he came to Cape Town (in Scarra Ntubeni’s continuous absence due to injury), but things will get really ugly if what happened at the lineout in Australia happens in Christchurch. So I’d stretch Samuels’ game time as far as possible.
But apart from the changes, I think that the Stormers also need some “fresh legs” against the Crusaders.
I’d like to see Senatla come in again. Dillyn Leyds, who started on the right wing on Saturday, sparked superb plays from the back when he started at fullback and linked up well with Senatla (who was on the right wing) against the Jaguares. And that kind of play would be a massive boost against the team that put almost 50 on the Chiefs at the weekend.
But Robbie Fleck will probably go with SP Marais at 15 again and Leyds on the wing, and if a Leyds-Senatla-Raymond Rhule back three isn’t a possibility for the remaining two games, I’d at least want to see Senatla - a huge attacking threat who isn’t scared to do his part on defence either regardless of the size of his opponent - coming in for Rhule on the wing.
In midfield, I’d bring Viljoen in and start him at No 13 alongside Damian de Allende in the place of JJ Engelbrecht. Against the Jaguares, Viljoen was solid again with his defence and the way he assisted the Stormers’ attack. And it would be good to see if he can bring his early-2017 form into the game in Christchurch.