Robbie Fleck believes that the decision to appoint co-captains will have long-term benefits for the Stormers. JON CARDINELLI reports.
On Tuesday, Fleck explained his decision to appoint two captains, namely Juan de Jongh and Frans Malherbe. The Stormers coach feels that this is necessary given that De Jongh, the more senior of the two leaders, is set to link up with the Springbok Sevens side ahead of the Olympic Games.
De Jongh will be available for all 15 of the Stormers' league games. However, if De Jongh is selected for the Blitzboks' Olympic team, he will not be available for the Super Rugby play-offs.
Until then, De Jongh and Malherbe will share the captaincy duties at the Stormers. De Jongh will have the final say on all on-field decisions.
'It's well documented that the co-captaincy tactic has been used by the Highlanders,' said Fleck, in reference to the 2015 Super Rugby-winning side that was led by fullback Ben Smith and No 8 Nasi Manu.
'The Brumbies are also moving in that direction. Stephen Moore is moving on later this year, so they've made Christian Lealiifano co-captain with a view to him succeeding Moore in the long term.
'Juan has a lot of experience in this position, while we see Frans as a leader for the future. It makes sense to groom Frans in this fashion.'
Many expected veteran Springbok Schalk Burger to lead the Cape side in 2016. Fleck said that the decision was made with the future of the franchise, and Burger, in mind. Burger is set to join English club Saracens later this year.
'It's Schalk's last season with the Stormers, and we want him to enjoy it. We spoke about giving him the captaincy, but we felt it would be better if he was free of the responsibility in these final six months. He will still play a leadership role in the side.'
The Stormers will play the first match of their 2016 Super Rugby campaign against the Bulls on 27 February. While they've been boosted by the return of Burger and Eben Etzebeth from Japan, they have suffered a number of injury setbacks.
The latest casualty is flanker Rynhardt Elstadt, who injured his groin in the friendly against the Jaguares last Saturday. Fleck confirmed that Elstadt has been ruled out for six weeks.
'It's a big blow,' he said. 'But we are fortunate that guys like Frans, Eben and Schalk are all back with us, and should be available for the Bulls game.'
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