Stormers ready to take it to next level
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck believes that his side‚ into their third year under his coaching‚ are ready to mature as realistic Super Rugby contenders in 2018.
Fleck started on a path to change the team’s style and improve their skills in 2016 after six seasons under Allister Coetzee’s conservative approach‚ but he has suffered setbacks along the way.
Most chastening was the 60-21 home quarterfinal loss against the Chiefs two seasons ago caused some doubt.
But Fleck still steadfastly believes that clinging on a conservative South African style won’t be good enough to topple New Zealand’s best teams.
"In 2017 we played a brand of rugby that we felt our fans were proud of‚ we had the fourth most points scored‚ fourth most tries scored and we were fifth in terms of offloads‚” Fleck said.
"We got our players fitter and stronger‚ we got them more skilled and it showed in the way we played.
"We are on the right path and the mindset this year is to build confidence in the group and start challenging the top teams in the competition.
"We want to get our players‚ fitter‚ stronger and more skilled so that we can play an expansive game.
"Two years ago we decided that this was the way we were going to go‚ the players and the management bought in and last year was about the start of change.
"This year is about building on that. "We have designed and created something special‚ both culturally and the way we play and train.
"We are busy building on that template and becoming more competitive.
"The game is evolving every day‚ every year there are new techniques. The fundamentals of rugby are the same‚ but there are a critical few points that you have to get right.
"It is a bigger challenge every time we get together in pre-season‚ we have to get fitter‚ stronger and faster.”
The Stormers have a tough start to the campaign with a home game against the Jaguares followed by an Australasian tour‚ where they come up against the Waratahs‚ Crusaders and Highlanders.
Flank Siya Kolisi is set to lead the side again.
Fleck has been impressed with his maturity since he was handed the armband in 2017.
"Siya is a player that I respect highly‚ he is a friend which is important‚ that we have got a good relationship‚” Fleck said.
"In the stint he had with the Springboks where he got given a leadership role‚ you could just see him and Eben (Etzebeth) take it to another level. "I am very excited by Siya's potential as a leader.
"He is a natural leader‚ he doesn't force it and there are very few leaders like that. "He is a humble guy‚ doesn't have an ego and is happy for other players on the field to make certain calls.
"He has got the final call obviously‚ but he has got no issues from a tactical and technical point of view. "He has got the ear of every player and every management member‚ which is important.
"We are all in one office which is open-plan and throwing ideas around‚ so there is a new energy with the coaching staff and the players are starting to feed off that.”