Stormers reveal weekly ‘Kiwi Day’
Cape Town - Four wins from four matches means that things are going swimmingly for the Stormers at the moment, but they know more than anyone that their Super Rugby schedule is about to get much, much tougher.
A clash against the unpredictable Cheetahs awaits at Newlands this Saturday, but after that things will get real in a hurry as this group of players gets the opportunity to measure the improvements they have made in 2017.
Following the Cheetahs clash, the Stormers host the Chiefs and then the Lions before departing on a three-match tour of New Zealand for fixtures against the Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes.
It doesn’t get much tougher than that.
In 2016, coach Robbie Fleck’s men avoided all of the New Zealand sides in regular season.
Back then, Fleck acknowledged that while the draw made picking up points easier in the group stages of the competition, it was not favourable in the sense that the Stormers had no idea where they stood in relation to the Kiwi sides.
The Stormers eventually met New Zealand opposition for the first time in the quarter-finals, where they were smashed 60-21 by the Chiefs at Newlands.
The prospect of five Kiwi fixtures in 2017 may be daunting, but at least this year the Capetonians will be able to gauge how far they have come and how far they need to go.
And, as flyhalf Robert du Preez revealed on Monday, the Stormers are preparing as much as they can for the Kiwis.
Even through the early weeks of the competition, Fleck and his charges have had one eye on the challenge that awaits in the middle stages of the tournament.
“Our training has changed a lot,” Du Preez confirmed.
“Every Thursday we do what we call a ‘Kiwi Day’ just to prepare for them because we knew that they pose a different threat.
“We go hard at each other on Thursdays.
“We don’t want to blow them up... they are good, we all know they are good... but we also want to focus on us.”
To make matters even tougher, the Springboks are taking part in a training camp in Stellenbosch after this weekend’s Super Rugby fixtures that will run from Sunday through to Tuesday - April 2-4.
There are 10 Stormers who will be attending that camp, which means that Fleck will have to sacrifice training on Monday and Tuesday in a week in which he must prepare for the Chiefs’ return to Cape Town.
“No it’s not (ideal timing),” Fleck said of the Bok camp.
“But that’s the reality of it and there’s not much we can do about that. We’ve known about that for some time and it is what it is.
“We have to help Allister and his group prepare and it’s important that these guys are exposed at Springbok level and join the camps.
“We understand and respect that but obviously it does have an impact on our prep, especially when we’re playing against the No 1 side in the competition at the moment.
“It’ll be an interesting week and a good challenge for us, but hopefully if we get our plans right this week then we can enforce them again next week.”
This Saturday’s clash against the Cheetahs kicks off at 15:05.