Fleck backs new approach

Stormers interim head coach Robbie Fleck aims to continue ‘challenging the status quo’ and embracing an ambitious brand of rugby, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

When Eddie Jones arrived in Cape Town to take over the coaching, he spoke passionately of his desire to ensure the Stormers would employ a high-tempo, attacking brand of rugby, and that various skills and conditioning work would be completed during the pre-season to supplement this ambition.

Although Jones unexpectedly left to join England after just a couple of weeks, Fleck said he would continue to drive these philosophies.

‘Over the years I’ve been part of something special where we’ve built solid foundations at the Stormers in the way we’ve played. We’ve built a great defensive game that’s got us to many play-offs, but I’ve been part of the process with Eddie and now [WP director of rugby] Gert [Smal] in terms of challenging the status quo and the way we want to play. This approach is exciting for me as a coach, and all the players have bought into it. We’ve changed the way we’ve trained and looked at the game.

‘We’ve been working very hard and are all excited about the path that has been created going forward,’ Fleck added. ‘Gert has put his faith in me, and along with him and the other coaches, I’ll be relying on those around me to keep us on track and on the path we’ve started. I think the collective coaching component is very important.’

Fleck, who has been an assistant coach for the franchise since 2010, said there had already been changes to the Stormers' approach during their pre-season training.

‘We identified the areas to work on and some things that we needed to add to our game. We want to create super athletes in order to play the way we want to, and conditioning has to come into it, so we’ve embraced new training techniques to improve our fitness. Tactically, we needed to be smarter, and this was also part of the emphasis from Eddie and Gert, especially when it comes to our kicking and attacking game.

‘Discipline is another important component to work on and improve, while we’re still going to have that hard edge on defence, but we are certainly going to adjust the way we view and approach our training and style of play. We’re going to be smarter and have more of a go, the intensity and brand of rugby we saw at the World Cup demonstrated how the game is changing. We want to challenge the status quo and that’s part of our motivation. We also need to bring a bit more attitude up front, and we want to get our pack moving and ensure our forwards are a bit more mobile in terms of how we want to play the game.’

Smal said the Stormers would reassess the coaching structures at the end of next season, but that he had full confidence in Fleck to take the team in the right direction.

‘Fleckie has the experience in Super Rugby, and although it was an uncomfortable time when Eddie left, the systems and everything were all already in place. Now we’ve added a little more to that, and it’s not like everything fell flat after Eddie left. We always wanted a system where if someone goes, we have someone ready to step in. I think Fleckie is ready to make the step up, he has a massive work ethic, which is what you want from a coach. We also want to play a real Western Province brand of rugby, and Fleckie is an outstanding coach who understands the culture and the way we want to play, and what we want to achieve.’

Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis