Vodacom Super Rugby
Fleck believes in youngsters
Cape Town - Beware of a wounded Springbok, or so the cliché goes. What then about a crippled Stormer?
The Cape side have not just been wounded in the wake of their losses to the Crusaders and Chiefs, but key Springboks such as Peter Grant, Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie have been mowed down ahead of Friday's Super Rugby match against the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland.
Elsewhere in the country there will be little sympathy for the Cape side because the Sharks are in hot pursuit and a Stormers defeat in New Zealand could potentially open the door for the Bulls in the South African conference.
Some people may think that the Stormers could just as well write this one off and should rather pin their hopes on getting back on the winning track when they play the Brumbies in Australia next week.
However, Stormers backline coach Robbie Fleck does not consider Friday's match a lost cause. Fleck was the outside centre when the Stormers beat the Blues 39-18 in their back yard in 2000 and part of the coaching staff when they won 33-21 in Auckland last year.
Don't write the Stormers off in Auckland. The problem with their backline this weekend has nothing to do with ability, but is rather a lack of experience.
"It's a challenge for the young guys, but an opportunity at the same time," Fleck said of the youngsters - Lionel Cronjé, Juan de Jongh and Johann Sadie - who will be holding the fort against the Blues.
"They bring a fresh energy and enthusiasm. It's an opportunity they will want to grab with both hands. We were all young at some point in our lives and there's no reason why they can't do it for us.
"We were very disappointed with the performance in the second half against the Chiefs and would like to make amends. We have the side to do it.
"Johann Sadie is stoked that he will be getting the opportunity to play in his favoured position. Whenever he has played for us, he has brought a work-rate. I'm looking forward to seeing the centre combination (De Jongh and Sadie) and how they take it to the Blues."
Fleck revealed that it had been a "painful experience" on Monday for players and team management to review footage of the disastrous second half against the Chiefs.
The Stormers lost 23-30
after leading 20-3 at half-time.
The most important lesson learned was to keep the ball for longer periods and not to kick it down Kiwi throats. If they make that mistake, they will be chasing shadows all over Eden Park.
While the Stormers do not lack strike power at the back, it is anticipated that they will look to keep the ball with their forwards. However, that is what the Blues are anticipating and they have prepared this week to stop the Stormers' rolling mauls.
But it's one thing to talk and quite another to do something. That is why the key word for the Stormers on Friday will be execution - if that is accurate, there is a chance of what will go down as a famous victory given the circumstances.Teams:Blues:
15 Lachie Munro, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Sherwin Stowers, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (captain), 1 Tom McCartney
Substitutess: 16 Pauliasi Manu, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Chris Lowrey, 19 Sean Polwart, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Winston Stanley, 22 Rene RangerStormers:
15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (captain), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Wicus Blaauw
Substitutes: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Steven Kitshoff, 19 Anton van Zyl, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Danie Poolman, 22 Nick Koster