Stormers face daunting task in quarters
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Stormers will be facing a daunting task when they run out at Newlands next weekend for their quarterfinal.
Regardless of the results in Round 17, the Stormers will be playing a New Zealand team at home - either the Crusaders, Chiefs, Highlanders or Hurricanes.
The Cape side's opponent will be revealed after those four teams face each other in two mouth-watering fixtures on Saturday. The Crusaders will be playing the Hurricanes in Christchurch, while the Chiefs meet the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Those four teams have been playing outstanding rugby throughout the season and either one of them will be favourites to beat the Stormers in Cape Town.
"We are going to play a New Zealand side and we are going to prep as well as we can," said Stormers stand-in captain Schalk Burger.
"There is not much we can control about how they are prepping or how they are playing - they got a different style. If we execute our plans and play in the right areas of the field, we will put them under pressure as well."
The Stormers will be using their final league game against the Southern Kings to prepare for the play-off and Burger believes they can't afford to be complacent.
"We are definitely not taking the Kings lightly. We want to go out and play well.
"It's the last league game for us and then we will start worrying about who we face in the quarterfinal next week," Burger added.
Meanwhile, Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck believes the match against the Kings will be a good opportunity for locks JD Schickerling and Jean Kleyn to showcase their abilities before the quarterfinals.
The duo are starting in place of Springboks Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth, who are being rested this week as part of an agreement between SA's Super Rugby franchises and the South African Rugby Union.
"Schickerling is in his debut season and he has been phenomenal in the time that he has been given," said Fleck. "As a 21-year-old he has come on in leaps and bounds - he leads by example and he really is a fine prospect for the future.
"JK [Jean Kleyn] has been around and he really is one of the hardest working players in the squad. He hits rucks and he makes his tackles and he brings a bit of grunt to the side. Unfortunately, he missed out through a big injury at the beginning of the year and he finally gets his chance. He has been on tour with us for two weeks and he hasn't got one minute of rugby.
"The pleasing aspect is that they are two quality locks, which is creating depth in the squad and it is putting pressure on everybody and that is what we want."
In injury news, Fleck confirmed that Daniel du Plessis, Nizaam Carr and Oliver Kebble will all be ready for selection for the play-off. Scrumhalf Nic Groom was given time off this week after he broke his nose on tour, and should be in contention as well.
However, there is still some uncertainty over the availability of co-captain Frans Malherbe. The prop injured his neck in the third Test against Ireland in June and has not featured in the Stormers' last two games.
"Frans still has some pain in his neck, but he is certainly in a far better position than where he was two weeks ago when he came back from the Springboks," said Fleck.