New coach Robbie Fleck says the most significant change the Stormers will make in 2016 is a shift in mindset. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Fleck, the Stormers interim coach for the 2016 season, has made it clear that he and his coaching staff are open to new ideas. The group has been working hard in the pre-season to implement a new culture and playing style. They hope that these changes will lead to more positive results.
On Tuesday, Fleck confirmed that Stuart Lancaster visited the Stormers earlier this week. The former England coach is currently on a fact-finding mission, visiting various sporting teams to share information and discuss ideas.
Fleck said that the visit benefited the Stormers coaches, as they had a chance to pick Lancaster’s brain on subjects like team culture; more specifically what did and did not work for England at the 2015 World Cup. Next week, Springbok forwards and attack Johann van Graan will visit the Cape franchise to offer similar input.
‘We want to learn from the best,’ said Fleck. ‘We welcome anybody with open arms, anybody who can make us better. That said, we have a good idea of how we want to run this team, and how we want to play.’
At a press conference at the High Performance Centre in Bellville, Fleck used the word ‘fearless’ repeatedly in describing the Stormers’ new attitude.
‘After the training camp in Wilderness, we have a greater understanding of where we stand as a group and the kind of culture we want to build. I’d like to keep things as simple as possible. At the same time, I want it to be a case of coaching and playing without fear. I want us to challenge the status quo. There needs to be a change in mindset.
‘We need to get back to doing the basics brilliantly. We want to build on a good set piece and defence, to upskill our attack and kicking game. We want to play at a high tempo and intensity. It may seem like a risky approach, but I’m talking about calculated risks. When the situation presents itself, we will have a full go.
‘Look at the All Blacks, who employ a pragmatic approach. [Former Bok coach] Heyneke Meyer wasn’t wrong when he pointed out that the All Blacks kick more than any other team. But it’s about when and why they kick. They also dominate the gainline, they do all the fundamentals well. They bring subtleties to the game once they have those things in place. That’s what we will be looking to do.’
The Stormers are unlikely to contend for the title this season. Fleck, however, feels they can qualify for the next round.
‘I shouldn’t be sitting here if I don’t believe we can make the play-offs. There are a lot of factors in our favour. We have a decent draw and a fresh approach will make us dangerous. If we start well, I believe we can be serious contenders.’
One concern is the lack of experience and, some might say, quality in the flyhalf position. Fleck disagreed with that sentiment, and reiterated that he will back the younger players to make an impact.
‘I’m happy with the three 10s in the system. Robert du Preez had a good Currie Cup, he’s a young kid who’s really stepped up. I’ve coached Jean-Luc du Plessis at U21 level. I won’t be afraid to select young players. Kurt Coleman had a tough season last year, but he has the qualities to ignite an attack and fits the way we want to play.’
The Stormers will compete against UCT in a defence session on Thursday. Their first warm-up match is against the SWD Eagles on 30 January, followed by a more testing preliminary against the Jaguars on 13 February. The Argentines will boast a host of Test players in their squad.
‘By the Jaguars game, we should have a better idea of who will front the Bulls in the first Super Rugby match [on 27 February],' said Fleck. ‘The guys in Japan [Eben Etzebeth and Schalk Burger] should be back in South Africa in the next week, and I expect them to be fit considering they run everything in that competition [the Top League].’
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images