Conference ‘not done’ for Stormers

    2017-04-07 14:41

    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town – There is a glaring difference between Africa Conference 1 and the three others in Super Rugby so far … a painful one-sidedness in log points terms.

    The Stormers, with their five-wins-from-five record, have a runaway 22 points, 13 ahead of the Cheetahs (who have also played an extra match) and an unexpected 17 in front of old rivals the Bulls.

    It is so much tighter in the other three pools: Africa 2 sees the Lions, Jaguares and Sharks all jostling within five points of each other, the New Zealand conference has only two points separating the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Chiefs, and the Aussie group is also pretty close even if mediocrity abounds there.

    But Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck insists his charges aren’t about to fall into a complacent trap of believing conference supremacy - and by extension guaranteed quarter-final - is all but signed and sealed even with roughly two thirds of the programme still to go.

    “The Bulls have completed their New Zealand leg now, and can look forward to a big run of home games,” said Fleck this week.

    “The Cheetahs, like us, still have their NZ leg ahead, but by no means do we think we’re sitting (too pretty).

    “We know what we have to do; we are on track in terms of the goals we have set ourselves … it doesn’t surprise us that we are top of the log at this point; maybe it is just a bit surprising by how much.”

    Fleck said the Stormers’ first seven games (the five already won, plus imminent home clash with the Chiefs, and then Lions also at Newlands) had always been regarded as pivotal for them.

    “If the next couple of weeks go to plan, we will be able to enjoy ourselves on tour, and experience touring of New Zealand again. It’s going to be tough – we’re the side with three games there, as the Bulls and Cheetahs were only required to play two (on that soil).

    “But that excites us … there is no better place to test yourself than in New Zealand, with teams like Hurricanes and Crusaders in their own backyards. It is where you learn the most.

    “I would like to think we will come back from that tour a better team, regardless of how the results have gone, so we can look forward to what’s left of the roster on our shores.”

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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