Last chance for Stormers to impress

Robbie Fleck (Gallo Images)
Robbie Fleck (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - There will be competition for places all over the field when the Stormers host the Jaguares at Newlands in a warm-up game on Saturday. 

With coach Robbie Fleck's men set to host the Bulls in their Super Rugby opener on February 27, this will be the last time that players on the fringes get to prove their worth and stake a claim for a place in that match-day 23. 

Fleck has announced a squad of 31 for Saturday's clash that does not include Schalk Burger, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Juan de Jongh or Cheslin Kolbe - all players who are expected to feature against the Bulls. 

From 1 through to 15, those involved in Saturday's match against the highly-fancied Jaguares will want to impress. 

"The whole approach this pre-season was to give everyone a fair opportunity because they worked incredibly hard. Now it’s a case of fine-tuning and starting to find those combinations," Fleck said in the build-up to the match this week.

"My philosophy is that every player deserves to be here and nobody has got a guaranteed spot. You’ve got to fight for your position and the guys who worked incredibly hard in the pre-season are going to be rewarded.

"In saying that, the guys who are not starting this weekend have got every chance to push hard because there is still another 10 days of hard training before we select that Bulls team.

"I want competition. If you don’t have any competition for places then there is complacency."

It will be the first time that Newlands gets a glimpse of the Stormers under Fleck, and while the new man in charge is encouraging competition in his squad, he does already have some idea of what his team to play the Bulls will look like.

"I would have liked to have gone in with a smaller squad and given guys more game time but there are a number of players in the replacements that are returning from injury and we’ve had to increase the size," said Fleck.

"Some of them can only play 20 minutes. I have a fairly good idea of who I want playing against the Bulls and I guess this is the start of that process."

One position that still seems a bit murky is inside centre, with injuries having ruled both Damian de Allende and Jaco Taute out of the start of the season. 

Huw Jones will start at No 12 on Saturday, but Juan de Jongh is the name that keeps coming up when discussing who will start the Bulls game.

Fleck, though, remains undecided. 

"I’ve been thinking about that in my mind over the last few days … what are we going to do about the No 12 position?" Fleck said.

"Certainly the way that he’s (De Jongh) been playing in Sevens … he can play there.

"With the way we want to play the 12 position is going to be crucial. He certainly can play it.

"We need his experience at in the 13 channel, especially from a defensive point of view … it’s the toughest positon to defend in and his commanding presence and communication is going to play a major role in that."

Saturday's match kicks off at 16:00.

Stormers team:

15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert Du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr (captain), 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.

Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Michael Willemse, 18 JC Janse van Rensburg, 19 JP Smith, 20 Alistair Vermaak, 21 Jan de Klerk, 22 JD Schickerling, 23 Rikus Bothma, 24 Jurie van Vuuren, 25 Nic Groom, 26 Godlen Masimla, 27 Louis Schreuder, 28 Kurt Coleman, 29 Brandon Thompson, 30 Ryan Oosthuizen, 31 Khanyo Ngcukana

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