Cape Town — The Stormers , flat on attack for most of their Australasian tour so far, are backing flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis one more time against the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday.
The 24-year-old continues to find his way back to full match fitness following a torrid two years with injury, and he has been picked in the No 10 jersey for every one of the Stormers’ eight matches in 2019.
There have been glimpses of the control and game management that is part of the reason Fleck rates him so highly, but for the most part Du Plessis has struggled to spark the Stormers into try-scoring form.
There is, of course, no way that Du Plessis can shoulder all the blame.
While he is the conductor of the orchestra, Du Plessis cannot be held accountable for the basic handling errors that have plagued so many in the Stormers backline, particularly on this tour.
With three losses out of three and just one losing bonus point to show for their efforts on tour, the Stormers need something special against the Rebels on Friday.
Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Chris van Zyl, JD Schickerling, SP Marais and Dan du Plessis are all unavailable for the visitors, making an already difficult task all the more daunting.
Somehow, the Stormers need to find a way to string attacking phases together, hold onto the ball and put points on the board.
With the engine room in their forwards pack absent, the Stormers will have to find another way through.
One man who does possess a natural ability to unlock defences is Damian Willemse, and it didn’t take long into Wednesday’s teleconference before Fleck was asked if he had considered picking the 20-year-old at flyhalf for the Rebels.
“No, not really,” was Fleck’s blunt response.
“With the amount of changes that have been happening over the last few weeks with injuries, we thought the best thing was to have some continuity and we’re getting that in the backline at the moment.”
Instead, Willemse will look to attack from No 15, though he can be expected to come into the first receiver position at times.
Given the horrendous time the Stormers have had on this tour, it would be easy to consider this final outing a ‘nothing to lose’ affair.
Because of how tight the South African Conference log is, though, it is anything but.
The Stormers, with three wins from seven, are still very much in the playoff race and are currently just four points off the playoff places.
After Friday, they would have played six of their eight matches away from home.
“We know that traditionally it takes 9 games to qualify so that is something that is in the back of our minds, but we plan to win every single game,” Fleck said.
“We still believe we’re playing well enough to win games. In all three games on tour we were in with a shot.
“The amount of opportunities that we did create has been pretty pleasing, but our discipline and our finishing has let us down. There is enough to take a lot of confidence going forward.
“This is an important game for us. We would like to go back with four out of eight, which is not ideal but not the end of the world either.
“We’re certainly playing well enough in our view to come home and then put in a strong performance in the second half of the season.”
Injuries, player unavailability, financial issues, changes in coaching personnel and a tough schedule have all contributed to what has been a clearly difficult start for the Stormers in 2019.
On Friday, they need a spark from somewhere and at this stage, anywhere will do.
Kick-off is at 11:45 .
15 Reece Hodge, 14 Semisi Tupou, 13 Tom English, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Angus Cottrell, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Robbie Abel, 1 Tetera Faulkner
Substitutes: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Esei Ha’angana, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Richard Hardwick, 22 Michael Ruru, 23 Campbell Magnay
15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 5 Cobus Wiese, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain)
Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Johan du Toit, 20 Juarno Augustus, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Josh Stander, 23 Seabelo Senatla
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Publish date : 2019-04-11 10:39:35