Fleck: Battered Boks have momentum
Cape Town - The Stormers have five players in their starting line-up for Saturday's clash against the Rebels who are returning from Springbok duty.
On the surface, that may seem problematic given how grueling the Boks' 2-1 series win over Ireland proved to be, but coach Robbie Fleck is choosing to look at the positives instead.
Damian de Allende, Siya Kolisi and Eben Etzebeth started all three Tests for the Boks while Pieter-Steph du Toit came off the bench in the first Test and started the last two.
Bongi Mbonambi will be well-rested after featuring for just a couple of minutes in the third Test, while Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Scarra Ntubeni and Nic Groom were included in Bok coach Allister Coetzee's original 31-man squad for the series but didn't play.
The turnaround is short.
The returning Boks were given Monday off of training, but the squad departed for Australia on Tuesday where fixtures against the Melbourne Rebels and Western Force await.
"They're good," Fleck said of his Springboks.
"They had quite a tough series. I think emotionally, mentally and physically they took a bit of a battering. They had to really dig deep to win that series against a decent Irish side.
"They know what it's like to play at Test level now ... and I guess that's a good thing for us."
Fleck added that winning the series would have given his Boks a bit of momentum as they returned to Super Rugby, and he was particularly pleased to see Damian de Allende showing glimpses of his 2015-self.
"Damian was starting to find some much-needed form and to find form at Test level is very difficult, but he certainly started to find it in the last game-and-a-half against the Irish," said Fleck.
"You think about Eben, he was out for six or seven weeks, and he had literally played two games with us before he went to the Springboks. Now he's played three tough Test matches and he's looking like he's getting back to his best form."
The other possible down-side is that while the Rebels and Force had almost full squads available for training during the international break, the Stormers were without a whole host of their regulars.
"That could be seen as a disruption, but the break did allow us to review our game and work with the guys we did have and put some new plans in place," said Fleck.
"They know what it takes to play at Test match level and I see that as a positive and not a negative."
The Stormers did lose captain Frans Malherbe as a result of the Springbok break, though, and he continues to recover from a neck injury.
15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Daniel du Plessis, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Schalk Burger (captain), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble
Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 JP Smith, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 22 Louis Schreuder, 23 Scott van Breda