Fleck: Beating Lions is 'important'
IN THE PRE-SEASON SPOTLIGHT: Stormers coach Robbie Fleck believes beating the Lions at Newlands on Saturday is an important part of his team's build-up to the Super Rugby season.
Most teams focus on their structures and getting combinations going before the season gets underway. There is often a fair amount of experimentation.
However, Fleck believes the Lions are sending a near full-strength team to Cape Town with a specific purpose and they are going to reply in kind - aiming to created a good contest, with victory one of the main priorities.
"Winning is important," Fleck said, adding that the Juan de Jongh-lead team will not be holding back.
"It shows in the Lions team that is coming down [to Cape Town] what their mission is," the Stormers coach said, adding: "It is the same mission as us.
"That [to win] has been our mission throughout the pre-season friendlies.
"Winning becomes a habit and it is important that this squad plays well during these pre-season games. We have had two good knock-outs this season and it is important we play well again this weekend."
Fleck said the most exciting part about their pre-season is that there are a lot of young players that are pushing hard for places.
"I would like to think, from a management point of view, we know who we want [to start in the opening round against the Bulls at Newlands on February 25], but with some of these kids putting up their hands it is great for us to look at these options as well.
"We want competition for places and we don't want guys sitting in a comfort zone.
"What I am excited about is that we are creating a bit more dept.
"In the past we were a bit thin in some positions, but now we are starting to build that depth."
Despite putting a high premium on victory, Fleck held back a few of his big guns - most notably Springbok locks Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Stepgh du Toit, as well as Bok centre Damian de Allende.
"There was a certain amount of game time they have already had in the pre-season," he said of the Bok trio's absence.
"Siya [Siyamthanda Kolisi] and Frans [Malherbe] have just come back from long-term injuries and they need as much game time as possible," he added, pointing out that each player's game time is monitored strictly.
He felt Saturday's game against the Lions will be a good test for them to see where they are in terms of their build-up to the season.
"They were the best attacking team in Super Rugby last year," Fleck said, adding: "They certainly can up the tempo and pace, pretty much what we faced in terms of the Chiefs in that quarterfinal last year."
Stormers squad: Juarno Augustus, Nizaam Carr, Jaco Coetzee, Juan de Jongh, Dan du Plessis, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Robert du Preez, Dewaldt Duvenage, Rynhardt Elstadt, JC Janse van Rensburg, Cheslin Kolbe, Siyamthanda Kolisi, Dan Kriel, Dillyn Leyds, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, Sarel Marais, Bongi Mbonambi, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Caylib Oosthuizen, Ramone Samuels, JD Schickerling, Chris van Zyl, Jano Vermaak, EW Viljoen, Cobus Wiese, Damian Willemse, Eduard Zandberg, Leolin Zas.
Lions: 15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Howard Mnisi, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Fabian Booysen, 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Cyle Brink, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements - from: Armand van der Merwe, Corne Fourie, Hencus van Wyk, Andries Ferreira, Lourens Erasmus, Robert Kruger, Jaco Kriel, Victor Sekekete, Dillon Smit, Andries Coetzee, Harold Vorster, Anthony Volmink, Jacques Nel, Sylvian Mahuza.
Date: Saturday, February 11
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 15.00 (13.00 GMT)
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
By Jan de Koning