Stormers coach hits out at Super Rugby format ahead of playoffs

The Stormers didn't play a New Zealand side during the round-robin of Super Rugby. Photo / Getty
The Stormers didn't play a New Zealand side during the round-robin of Super Rugby. Photo / Getty

Far from being thrilled to have a home quarter-final against the Chiefs on Sunday morning, Stormers coach Robbie Fleck is frustrated by the Super Rugby format which has benefited his side.

As conference winners from Africa 1, the Stormers along with Africa 2 winners the Lions are guaranteed home quarter-finals under the playoff format, despite the Stormers having fewer points than the sixth-placed Chiefs.

Fleck is lamenting the fact his side didn't face any New Zealand opposition in the round robin which he feels puts the Stormers at a disadvantage despite being at home this weekend.

"It is a little bit frustrating because we have a young group of players and we are going through changes in terms of the way we want to play and want to grow as quick as possible. With playing some of the Kiwi sides you tend to lose out in terms of analysing them and playing against them. Certainly the Kiwi sides have shown they're the best in the competition, they are changing the way the game is played and their skill level is of the highest quality, and you want to match yourself against the best throughout the year." Fleck said.

The former Springbok test centre says their home crowds have been down this year and he puts that down squarely to not playing the New Zealand sides.

"We have missed out on playing them and our fans appreciate good rugby in Cape Town and would have liked to see the Hurricanes, Chiefs and Crusaders playing at Newlands on a regular basis."

"We get our chance now and we have had the so called easier route to get a home quarter-final and we are excited that we are going to play one of the best teams, and hopefully it goes well for us."

For Fleck changes to the competition structure can't come soon enough.

Listen: Stormers coach Robbie Fleck

"It's got to run its course obviously and next year we will play the Kiwi sides in the same format but certainly the ground feeling is there will be changes come 2018. One of the formats we could look forward to is similar to the way the European Championship is played, the old Heineken Cup format where there's various groups and round robins in those groups and you get to quarters a semi and a final. There you miss out on not playing against all the teams in the competition which is again a shame, but we are not even doing it now in the current format."

Fleck says it's difficult to gauge how good his side is because they haven't been tested against Kiwi opposition.

"We haven't met that intensity yet, yes we played a full strength Brumbies side early in the competition after they came off a big win over the Hurricanes early doors, and we had to step up after a loss to the Sharks, so we did test ourselves against some quality there. But it's tough to say and we can only go on the evidence in the footage and the games we've watched. But certainly it's pretty evident the intensity that the Kiwi sides are playing at, and we will only really know post game whether we can match the intensity, if not better it. We we feel if we can get there physically, we can put the Chiefs under some intense pressure.

Fleck has high praise for the Chiefs pack which is expected to come under pressure from the powerful Stormers eight.

"The Chiefs were the best team in the competition leading up into the last round , we are really exited really, the fact we haven't faced a New Zealand side yet gives ourselves a chance to face a challenge against the best."

While the Stormers boast a number of experienced Springboks in their pack led by Schalk Burger and Eben Etzebeth, Fleck thinks the Chiefs will be competitive up front.

"I have been impressed by the Chiefs pack to be honest they are an aggressive pack and their set piece has improved over the years and certainly their lineout is operating well. I mean we've got one of the best contesting lineout in the competition but certainly the way the Chiefs do make smart plans around the lineout, they have been able to secure good solid position there to launch their attacks from. It's going to be a dig dong battle up front and last year we were dominant in the scrums against the Chiefs at Newlands but they have improved in that area as well."

Fleck says the weather in Cape Town will also be a factor.

"It's going to be raining here the whole week so that will affect the game plans of both teams," he said.

The Stormers will be without their first five Jean Luc du Plessis due to an ankle injury with Robert du Preez, the first choice at the start of the season set to start this weekend.

Fleck also waded into the eligibility issue which has ruled out the likes of former All Black Liam Messam from the Cape Town match, and Sharks and Springbok pivot Pat Lambie from his side's trip to Wellington to face the Hurricanes.

"We understand the rulings behind it and SANZAAR are open to the fact that if you can prove there is an injury crisis and you have the evidence then players do qualify if you put the names forward, but it's strange that Pat Lambie wasn't registered initially because he was the captain of the Sharks and why wasn't he in the original squad? The rules are clear in that regard."

- NZ Herald

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