“I expect a brutal game to be honest,” said the Stormers attack coach. “There’s going to be a lot of emotion for them as they have players leaving and they’ll want to earn back the respect of their fans.”
Fleck was referring to the Sharks’ confirmation yesterday that Springboks Willem Alberts and Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis would be playing their last match for the Durban franchise before leaving to join overseas-based teams.
“We’re expecting a massive game from them, they’ll want to finish off on a high with a win against the South African Conference-winners and, likewise, we’re going up there to win and we expect nothing less than a massive battle with the Sharks,” said Fleck.
Pick Jaco Taute in second-string side. Travel to Durban. Beat Sharks. Repeat.
These are the directions that the Stormers followed last year and which they are readying to use again this week.
Taut snapped a tidy drop-goal after the siren to embarrass the Sharks with a 21-19 victory for a patchwork Stormers outfit in May last year.
“We spoilt their party last year with that victory that took them out of a home semi-final,” added Fleck. “There’s always been a competitive edge between these two sides in recent years.”
The Sharks got their own back in the return match at Newlands in last year’s season-finale, and ended up clinching their first SA Conference title, but the win on the east coast restored some pride in a Stormers camp that was desperate for respect.
On paper, the roles are reversed this week. The Sharks are languishing in 11th place with just five wins in 15 matches while the third-placed Stormers have just wrapped up their third SA Conference championship in five years.
But that’s on paper. Kiwi referee Glen Jackson is on Saturday expected to find himself in the middle of a heated SA derby between an overhauled Stormers team and the best that the Sharks can muster.
Duane Vermeulen (neck) and Demetri Catrakilis (concussion) have already been ruled out, while Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has made no secret of his intention to stand down Schalk Burger, Damian de Allende, Eben Etzebeth and Frans Malherbe, in accordance with the plan to rest key Springboks for the upcoming World Cup.
Cheslin Kolbe is also expected to miss his first minute of duty this season as part of a plan to “build capacity”, by activating second-stringers who have not seen much live action, and recharging stalwarts for the play-offs.
The rotation could be viewed as a surrender of sorts, but that’s not how Robbie Fleck sees it. The Stormers attack coach is expecting a “brutal derby” contested by players fighting for the chance to see time in the play-offs.
“Everyone’s fighting for a starting position,” he said. “By no means is our team selected for the play-offs.
“There are certain players who need rest, and there are certain players returning from injury. So everyone who is playing this weekend is vying for a starting position – we don’t want people to become complacent in their positions.
“If they want to get a place in the play-offs they need to perform at a high level.”
Taute is on track to make his first Super Rugby appearance since the Sharks beat the Stormers 34-10 at Newlands last year. The three-Test Springbok has spent much of the interim recovering from a knee injury and playing his way back into form for Western Province during the Vodacom Cup.
“It was good to get game time in the Vodacom Cup and I just want to build up momentum now and give my best for the Stormers, I’m desperate and hungry to pull that jersey over my head,” said the 24-year-old.
“Jaco has got heaps to offer,” Fleck said of Taute, who was designated to the midfield during last year’s domestic championship after a shaky performances at fullback.
“He was one of our best players of the season in the Currie Cup last year.
“Jaco has got massive leadership ability, he’s a great communicator and I think we’ve found his best position at inside centre. He brings a lot of energy and grunt to that position.
“He proved himself in the Currie Cup last year, and he’s worked his way back into form from injury this year during the Vodacom Cup.” - Cape Argus
Original source: Stormers expect ‘brutal’ final game