Fleck and his 'obvious' choices
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: A new captain to steer the ship might be the sliver of hope the Stormers need to secure a win on tour.
The Stormers, currently at the bottom of the South African conference, head into Friday’s clash against the Melbourne Rebels with their backs against the wall.
The Cape Town-based side has suffered three consecutive defeats – to Hurricanes, Blues and the Reds, respectively.
With regular captain Siya Kolisi being rested this week – along with senior members Pieter-Steph du Toit (birth of his daughter), Eben Etzebeth (injury) and Chris Van Zyl (injury) absent from the side – the burden now falls on Steven Kitshoff to lead this side out of the ruins.
Kitshoff’s cameo appearance in the skipper role couldn’t come at a more challenging time.
The loosehead prop, who has been one of the stand-out performers in the Stormers set-up, has been tasked to lead a youthful team and will have to depend on senior personnel like Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Damian de Allende, Jean-Luc du Plessis and Dillyn Leyds.
This will be the first time Kitshoff leads the Stormers since 2017, when he returned from his two-year stint with Top14 club Bordeaux.
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Stormers coach Robbie Fleck described this week’s captaincy selection as an ‘obvious’ choice.
“Kitsy [Kitshoff] has been part of our leadership group since he returned from France,” head coach Fleck told reporters on Wednesday.
“Much like Pieter-Steph du Toit, he is a very quiet leader and leads by example in the way he trains and plays. He is a well-respected player within the group. When he speaks, he speaks confidently and the players listen and so do the management.
“Handing him the captain’s armband was an obvious choice for us.
“He has grown so much since his return [from France]. He has been keen on taking more of a leadership role, not necessarily the captaincy.
“However, week in and week out he performs – so it was a natural choice and the boys have responded exceptionally well,” he added.
The youthful exuberance
The Stormers started their Australasia tour with a Bok-laden pack that certainly challenged the Hurricanes during the 28-34 defeat.
In contrast, this week’s pack, which include 21-year-old debutant flank Ernst van Rhyn, Kobus van Dyk, Salmaan Moerat and Cobus Wiese, is more youthful – but certainly ‘dynamic and mobile’, an exciting Fleck said.
“We had a specific plan against the Hurricanes and then against the Blues, who have different strengths and weaknesses.
“Last week [against the Reds] we also had a specific approach, but of all the games I thought that was the one where we let ourselves down the most.
“This Friday, we have a young, dynamic and mobile pack taking the field. It is certainly a very different pack to what we started with and we need to play to the strength of the team we have selected.”
He added: “We wanted to have a look at Cobus Wiese at No.7 and when Siya [Kolisi] was rested we wanted to see Jaco [Coetzee] at No.6 and give Juarno Augustus a run at No.8. But it hasn’t worked out that way.
“Nonetheless, we are exceptionally excited about what this pack can do. There are some smart guys in terms of running a line-out and some real energy and mobility in that pack – certainly, with Augustus coming off the bench he makes an impact.
“Think the line-outs was a big reason why we made the selection, ”
By Leezil Hendricks