Fleck expects 'fun and games' against Bulls
Gavin Rich - SuperSport.com
Cape Town - The phrase "fun and games" is probably a good way to describe what has been happening off the field at Western Province recently, but when it was applied by Stormers coach Robbie Fleck in looking ahead at SuperHero Sunday he had a different idea in mind.
The Stormers will open their 2019 Super Rugby campaign against the Bulls, who just happen to be their opponents in Sunday's double header friendly at Cape Town Stadium. With a match between them set for less than two weeks later, it is going to be interesting to see just how much the respective teams are prepared to show.
"Yes, obviously it's going to be a bit of fun and games in the game against the Bulls at the weekend," Fleck told SuperSport.com.
"I'd like to think that the Bulls will put out a strong team, which will be good, but that means that tactically it will be fun and games as you obviously don't want to show all your cards against a team you are playing two weeks later."
It seems a bit odd that the two teams that will be pitting themselves against each other in the real deal of the first match of the Super Rugby season were drawn to play one another, but Fleck has no complaints about that.
"It wasn't something we asked for, it was just the luck of the draw, but we are pleased to be playing the Bulls as we expect them to be a tough team to play against this year. So it will be a good hit out against them."
For the first time in a long time Fleck will start a Super Rugby season with virtually a full squad, but Eben Etzebeth and Jean-Luc du Plessis will be definite absentees from Sunday's game.
"Those players will be missing, and we are also going to give the guys who played a lot of games on the Springbok tour another two weeks to get properly conditioned. But I'd like to think that in this match we will be reintroducing the players who toured and will start heading towards our strongest playing group."
There will be some interesting selection posers for Fleck. For instance Juarno Augustus impressed him with his "nice and aggressive play" in the friendly against False Bay and a Combined Club XV, but Sikhumbuzo Notshe is also available to play No 8 as he returns to the selection mix.
As a Springbok, you'd expect Notshe to be favoured, but Fleck agreed that it is going to be an interesting year when it comes to choosing between a capped Bok and the 2017 Junior World Rugby Player of the Year.
"It is going to be an interesting selection but we have several of those. The competition for places is great to have and it can only improve our chances of doing well," he said.
The Stormers' chances of doing well of course do depend on how quickly the off-field uncertainties focussed on the future of former assistant coach Paul Treu, which was intensified over the past week, are settled and resolved.
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Those who question the efficiency of the WP leadership and their role in the situation that has developed will feel vindicated by the slow response to the media stories on the issue on Sunday and Monday, but a statement was expected at around midday.
Predictably there will be spin, as there always is, but it is to be hoped that at least there will be an acknowledgement that the players did meet with CEO Paul Zacs, president Zelt Marais and other top WP administrators on Monday morning to discuss the player grievances.
That at least would be an admission that there is a problem that requires addressing, and we will only know in time, once the administration is seen to be taking some form of action, what the upshot of the meeting was. But in the meantime the most important thing for Fleck is to get his players' minds on the task at hand, which is to produce a successful campaign in Super Rugby.
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