Midfield blow for Stormers

Centre Jaco Taute is set to undergo ankle surgery and will miss the Stormers' opening Super Rugby clash against the Bulls. JON CARDINELLI reports.

The Stormers are facing something of a midfield crisis. Taute injured his ankle in the pre-season match against the SWD Eagles in George last week. According to Stormers coach Robbie Fleck, the No 12 will need surgery, and will not be available for the Cape franchise's first Super Rugby match against the Bulls on 27 February.

The upshot is that the Stormers will begin their Super Rugby campaign without their first- and second-choice No 12s. This past December, Springbok centre Damian de Allende sustained a serious ankle injury while playing for his club, the Kinetsu Liners, in Japan.

Fleck said that he hopes Taute will recover quickly. De Allende, however, won't be back in action until mid-April.

'It's a very important position in the modern game, which is why I would prefer to pick a specialist,' the Stormers coach said. 'I will back the youngsters.

'Huw Jones will be in the mix, as will Daniel du Plessis. [Flyhalf] Robert du Preez can play there if required, but I don't want to pick him out of position. The same goes for Jean-Luc du Plessis, who filled in at 12 last Saturday when Jaco went off injured. I will select somebody who is used to the position.'

If everybody were fit, Fleck would in all likelihood select De Allende and Juan de Jongh in the midfield. As it stands, De Jongh may even be considered for the No 12 role.

Fleck has been careful not to talk up his side ahead of the new season. He feels that his young side will need to start well if they are to be in the mix at the business end of the competition.

Fleck has talked up the new philosophy that's been embraced at the Stormers HQ. He wants his charges to play a more balanced game this season.

On Tuesday, Sanzaar confirmed the change to the bonus-point system. From this year, an extra log point will be awarded to the side that scores three more tries than their opponents.

Fleck said the change will have little bearing on the Stormers' preparations.

'It is a good idea, putting in place something that will encourage more attacking rugby. Why not? For us, it will make little difference. We will stick to the plans that were put in place in November.

'We have moved towards playing at a higher tempo and making the most of our chances. It was good to see that this past weekend against the Eagles. We scored six tries, and five of those were scored by outside backs.

'Eddie Jones sparked it, he initiated it when he was here last year [for a brief period before taking up the England head coaching job]. But what we have now is ours, we have taken the process forward.'

Fleck has delayed the announcement of the Stormers captain and leadership group. These decisions will be taken next week once all the players have returned from their clubs in Japan and from Springbok Sevens duty.

The Stormers' next pre-season match is against the Jaguars at Newlands on 13 February.

Photo: James Lipp/BackpagePix

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Jon Cardinelli