Stormers assistant coach Robbie Fleck is wary of the Reds backline and is prepared for the unexpected this weekend so that the team isn’t caught flat-footed this season.
Last year the Reds stunned the Stormers in Cape Town with an unexpected kicking gameplan that helped the Queensland side end the Stormers unbeaten run in the competition.
This year the Stormers first defeat has come a match before the meeting with the Reds, but Fleck and the coaching staff know only too well that the Reds will have something up their sleeves for the clash on Friday.
“They’ll use their backs to good effect and could use an attacking kicking game much like they did against us at Newlands last year where we were under a lot of pressure,” Fleck told this website.
However, with the skilful Will Genia running the show from scrumhalf, the Reds backline is a huge threat even without superstars Quade Cooper and Digby Ioane.
“They’ve some genuine pace out wide, which is handy on a quick, dry pitch like Suncorp,” Fleck explained.
“You can get quick ball and expose a team out wide on this surface, especially if you have fast wings, which we know the Reds have in Dom Shipperly and Rod Davies.”
The Reds have also been boosted in the midfield by the return of Mike Harris, who will also add great value with his accurate goal-kicking ability.
The Stormers will also no doubt pay a fair amount of attention to rookie flyhalf Sam Lane, who was at the Western Province academy last year and was schooled in Cape Town.
“The guys are excited to play against Sam [Lane] and they all know each other well so that will be interesting in this match,” Fleck said.
“When we went through our flyhalf injury crisis last year we wanted to uses him, but he did his knee ligaments and wasn’t available.
“We know he is a quality player and was really good at school and with the academy, and he’s showed some class already against the Brumbies.
“Harris will also make a big difference for the Reds and with a quality 10, 12 combination they have plenty of kicking options, with one guys who uses his right foot and the other with a big left boot.”
Even though the Reds are in mid-table they have the firepower to deliver the kind of performance you’d expect from a side defending their title.
“They’re still the Super Rugby champions and even though their start to the season wasn’t great, they can still produce the goods on any day and we’re expecting it to be really tough on Friday,” Fleck added.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has been forced to make a number of changes to his team for the clash against the Reds in Brisbane on Friday due to injuries to key players.
There are two positional changes in the backline with Bryan Habana starting at outside centre, partnering Juan De Jongh who moves inside in jersey 12. In addition, Gio Aplon returns from injury to take Habana’s spot on the left wing.
There is only one change to the pack with De Kock Steenkamp partnering Eben Etzebeth at lock, in for the injured Andries Bekker who has not recovered from his lower back injury in time, although he will be available for the clash with the Force next weekend..
Coetzee said: “I don’t want to push Andries, he will definitely be ready for the last tour match next weekend and De Kock Steenkamp really played well when he came on against the Crusaders so it is great to have him partnering Eben Etzebeth this weekend.
“That gives Andries a breather and also brings Nick Koster back onto the bench.
Captain Jean De Villiers is on his way back to Cape Town after sustaining an injury to his left wrist against the Crusaders. De Villiers will not be available for the next two weeks and will undergo further assessment in Cape Town as to the prognosis and rehabilitation period.
Coetzee explained: “He injured his hand against the Crusaders, obviously after the game there was some discomfort and that is why he has gone back home for further assessments with a hand specialist.
“He has had the same hand injured before and we just want to make sure that the prognosis is done by a specialist, and hopefully he will be back for the first game back at Newlands.
“Injuries are part of Super Rugby and it’s the teams that are best able to cope with them, that will do well in this competition,” said Coetzee. “Losing Jean is a setback but we have a lot of leadership options and I am confident in the depth we have available and as to the temperament and ability of this squad.”
The loss of De Villiers and Bekker means that Duane Vermeulen will captain the side and Coetzee expressed the utmost confidence in his leadership abilities, adding that he will be well supported by the rest of the senior players.
He commented: “Duane was appointed Currie Cup captain last year but never got the opportunity due to injury so I don’t think there is any doubt about his leadership abilities.
“I think that all of the players made it a lot easier for Jean after we lost Schalk Burger, and I expect nothing less from the rest who will support Duane Vermeulen this weekend. “I think all of the players are leaders in their own right, it is about knowing the details of the job and your own responsibilities,” added the Stormers coach.
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Bryan Habana, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Nick Koster, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Burton Francis, 22 JP du Plessis.
Date: Friday, April 20
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19.40 (09.40 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Rohan Hoffman (Australia)
TMO: Steve Lesczcynski (Australia)