Bulls or bust for staggering Stormers
Cape Town - The Stormers may have surrendered top spot in the South African Group of Super Rugby to the Lions, but they are still clinging on to their lead in Africa Conference 1.
Saturday's 17-17 draw against the lowly Sunwolves in Singapore has left coach Robbie Fleck's men just three points ahead of the Bulls in their Conference, while over in Africa Conference 2 the Sharks and the Lions are battling it out.
The winners of each Conference secure an automatic home quarter-final in Super Rugby, while the next best placed team in the South African Group will secure a wildcard position in the knockouts.
Not too long ago it looked like the Stormers would canter through to a last eight fixture at Newlands, but a shock loss at home to the Waratahs and then that woeful day at National Stadium have brought them crashing down to earth.
With just four points separating the Lions at the summit of the South African Group and the Bulls in fourth, the Stormers also need to look over their shoulders.
One of the Stormers, Bulls, Sharks and Lions will miss out on a playoff position, but Fleck insists he is still solely focused on winning the Conference and securing qualification that way.
"The Lions and the Sharks don’t have anything to do with us. We’ve got to win our conference and the next game against the Bulls is our focus," Fleck said very matter-of-factly after the match on Saturday.
Fleck added that he did not see a need for wholesale changes based on the performance against the Sunwolves, but the display did push him a little closer towards understanding what his best combinations were.
The likes of Scarra Ntubeni, JD Schickerling, Rynhardt Elstadt, Louis Schreuder and Jonny Kotze would have all done their long term prospects no favours by failing to get the job done against a side that had gone into the weekend with one win from nine matches.
"Results-wise, we’ve been playing really well. I don’t exactly have a huge squad to select from so for me it’s important to back the guys that are in the squad and get them back on track," said Fleck.
"It was a bad day at the office for everybody and we’ll move on. We’ll be better for it against the Bulls.
"There were a couple of guys who put their hands up and we probably are a little bit clearer in where we want to go in terms of selection."
The Stormers travel to Loftus on Saturday for a crucial against the Bulls.