Stormers to field a young side against the Rebels as injuries mount
The Stormers are optimistic despite struggling in the bottom half of the Super Rugby standings due to a three-match losing streak and ravaged by injuries.
Defeats against the Hurricanes (34-28)‚ the Blues (24-9) and the Reds (24-12) on their current Australasian tour were games the Stormers could have won if they had taken the numerous chances they created.
They haven’t won in New Zealand since 2013‚ and have now lost their last 13 games on Kiwi soil while they have lost their last 11 outside of South Africa.
To add to their mounting problems‚ they have lost several key players on this tour and will field a young side against the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday.
Captain Siya Kolisi‚ wing SP Marais and experienced lock Chris van Zyl were the latest trio to depart the tour after the Reds match
Van Zyl and Marais are injured while Kolisi is omitted due to Springbok resting protocols.
The team has already waved goodbye to Eben Etzebeth‚ JD Schickerling‚ Dan du Plessis and Pieter-Steph du Toit so far.
But assistant coach Paul Feeney gave an upbeat media briefing from Australia on Monday‚ highlighting the Stormers’ ability to create chances‚ but underplaying their ability to finish them.
“The players haven’t lost belief or confidence‚” Feeney said.
“But if you build a lead then the opposition start playing differently because they start chasing the game. In that first 15 or 20 minutes [in Brisbane] we could have been up by 14 points and that changes the way the Reds decide to play.
“There are always big moments in matches‚ game changers. Sometimes a team just needs a little bit of luck somewhere and then confidence or momentum grows from that. We are looking to finish strongly. There is no reason we can’t beat the Rebels on Friday.
“After eight games‚ if we have won four‚ and played six away from home‚ and we have six games at home coming up out of the last eight‚ we are well in the hunt [for the quarter-finals]. Especially when you look at the South African conference at the moment. Everyone is knocking over everyone.”
The Stormers’ have had the toughest schedule to start to the campaign‚ but the Rebels game is now a must-win if they hope to capitalise on the run of home games to come.
The only problem is‚ the Stormers go into the match with a young‚ inexperienced side while the Rebels are top of the Australian Conference and second on the overall standings.
“Seven players have gone home from this tour‚ which is a hell of a lot‚” Feeney said.
“It is a lot of experience lost too. The flip side is that some of these guys are getting opportunities. We are excited about Friday’s game. We haven’t got some of the big names up front‚ but the boys who are here and the other experienced guys need to step up.
“People always talk about having a good balance of experience and youth. Guys like Ernst van Rhyn and Kobus van Dyk have massive enthusiasm and work rate. They are good players and are just chomping at the bit to get out there.”