Stormers relishing Lions challenge
Cape Town - Stormers Head Coach Robbie Fleck is excited to see how much his team have progressed when they face the Lions in their final pre-season friendly at Newlands on Saturday.
Fleck's squad picked up a morale-boosting nine-try 57-14 victory against franchise partners South Western District Eagles at Outeniqua Park in George on Saturday and will wrap up their preparations for the season by hosting the 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby finalists.
The Stormers coach was pleased with the way his squad came through the clash in George where conditions added to the challenge for the players and forced them to adapt their game.
"In the first half the ball was like a piece of soap and it was a good opportunity for us to play a bit of territory. Our forwards got stuck in which was very pleasing, especially with such a young pack.
"We played smart rugby and once we got in their half we put them under pressure, which is pleasing. Our line-out functioned extremely well and we scrummed particularly well against probably a heavier pack.
"In the second half when the ball dried out a bit and the pitch dried up we were able to move them around better which was why we were able to score six tries in the second half.
"Conditions dictated what happened in both halves so it was pleasing that we showed we can play it tight and then open it up when it dried up which is great to see," he said.
Fleck was encouraged by the impact that the players returning from injury made, alongside some talented youngsters.
"It was a good blend of youth and experience and the boys stood up, there were a few mistakes but that was due to the conditions I think.
"There were some pleasing performances from guys who have just come back from injury and from the youngsters.
"It was a welcome return for guys like JD Schickerling, Jean-Luc du Plessis, EW Viljoen and Dan Kriel who have been out for a long time so that was pleasing," he said.
Turning his attention to the Lions, Fleck said that the Johannesburg side are the ideal opposition to measure themselves against before the season kicks off on February 25 when they host the Bulls at Newlands.
"The Lions were the best attacking side in the competition last year, they have been able to play at a tempo and intensity that matches the Kiwi sides, so there is no better opposition than the Lions.
"It will be a true test of how far we have come since last year, it will be a great test for us. The big thing for me is the tempo and intensity that they bring, so we want to see where we are in terms of that and if we have improved," he explained.
Of course, the Stormers are also excited to be playing at Newlands for the first time in 2017 and Fleck said that the players are eager to show their faithful fans how far they have come since last season.
"We have played two away games now and it will be nice to be at home. It is always good for the players to get that feeling of playing at Newlands in front of our crowd and it is a great opportunity for our fans to come see how far we have come and some of the youngsters we have got coming through at the moment.
"There is a new generation of rugby players at Western Province and the Stormers and they will be on show," he added.