CAPE TOWN – It has been a long three weeks for the Stormers, but they have one final opportunity to rescue something from their tour of Australasia tomorrow then face the in-form Rebels in Melbourne.
The Stormers, after a positive start to the season bar the opener at Loftus, have somewhat lost their way in New Zealand and Australia.
A host of injuries have further increased the pressure on a team struggling with its execution, while equally they seem undecided on how exactly they want to play.
They have moved from a forward-based game plan to shifting the ball to the wide channels with only a losing bonus point against the Hurricanes in their tour opener to show for their troubles so far.
The Rebels, meanwhile, are running like a steam train forging ahead through their exciting and hard-running backs who have powered them to the top of the Australian conference.
So, how exactly are Robbie Fleck’s charges going to approach the clash at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium?
“When we had that number one starting pack with all the Springboks, it was obviously a strength. Certainly the way we played against the Hurricanes, there was (a) specific reason why we played like that.
“We wanted to target them upfront. We had pretty much the same pack against the Blues, and we played it differently against the Blues because that’s what was required.
“In terms of the way we play the game, we look at that each week,” Fleck said from Melbourne.
“In terms of this young pack, it has completely different strengths to the pack against the Hurricanes. This is a young, dynamic pack, and we are very excited about them putting a performance against a very well organised Rebels pack.
“If that means we kick the ball more, or a ball-in-hand approach, that will have to be seen on Friday.”
Fleck has once again been forced to make a host of changes – six this week – due to injuries and further external factors, with the most notable seeing loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff being entrusted with the leadership duties in the absence of regular captain Siya Kolisi.
“Steven has been part of our leadership group since he returned from France. Much like Pieter-Steph (du Toit), he is a very quiet leader, leads by example in the way he trains and the way he plays.
“He is very well respected within the group,” Fleck said of the new Stormers skipper.
“When he speaks, he speaks confidently, and the players and management listen. It was a natural choice for us, and the boys have responded really well.
“He is still a young guy, and a lot of these kids that are playing on Friday night have a good rapport with him, as well as the remaining senior players.”
Kitshoff will join up with hooker Bongi Mbonambi and tighthead Wilco Louw in the front row.
There is also a switch in the second row with Cobus Wiese shifted to the middle to accommodate Salmaan Moerat at No 4.
The loose trio is particularly green with Ernst van Rhyn set to debut on the side of the scrum. He is joined by Kobus van Dyk and Jaco Coetzee.
The only change to the backline is the return of Herschel Jantjies at scrumhalf for Justin Phillips.
15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 5 Cobus Wiese, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Bench: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Johan du Toit, 20 Juarno Augustus, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 Seabelo Senatla.@ZaahierAdams