Cape Town – Stormers coach Robbie Fleck has backed Jean-Luc du Plessis at flyhalf throughout the 2019 Super Rugby campaign so far, but Josh Stander is in line for a start soon.
That was the message out of the camp in Bellville on Monday as the Capetonians prepare for Saturday’s outing against the Brumbies at Newlands.
Having just completed their four-match Australasian tour, this will be just the third time that the Stormers play at home this year in what will be their ninth fixture of the season.
A 41-24 win over the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday went a long way towards easing the woes of what had been a testing tour for the Stormers up until then with losses against the Hurricanes, Blues and Reds having threatened to see Fleck’s men return home with nothing to show for their efforts.
With the hardest part of their season now complete, the Stormers are still well-placed in what is a congested South African conference, having won four of eight to sit 4th in the conference and just five points behind the Bulls in 1st.
Against the Rebels, the Stormers finally found something in the way of attacking flair, even if a lot of it was pouncing on loose Rebels ball in launching counter attacks.
Du Plessis, though, continues in his struggles to convince that he is the man who should be orchestrating this Stormers attack.
He has had a disastrous two-year run with injury and the fact that he is healthy and able to play at all is surely more important than anything else, but Du Plessis has struggled this season to control games through both his distribution from hand and with the boot.
In Stander, Fleck has an alternative who was the first-choice No 10 throughout Western Province’s Currie Cup campaign last year.
What stood out for Stander last year was his consistency – something that Du Plessis has not found yet.
It might not come against the Brumbies on Saturday, but a start at Super Rugby level is now not far away for Stander, who has been knocking on the door relentlessly for some time.
“He has been pretty effective off the bench when he has come on, whether it has been at 10 or 12, he has played pretty well,” Fleck said of Stander.
“It is in our minds to give him an opportunity soon.
“We feel that he is playing with a lot of confidence and he played like that in the Currie Cup. You need to reward that at some stage.”
While Damian Willemse is always a popular choice at flyhalf given his success in that position for the Stormers in 2018, he seems to be settling in nicely at fullback and Fleck has admitted his reluctance to tinker too much with a backline he believes is finally starting to find its feet.
“One aspect that we’ve probably struggled with, certainly at the beginning of our campaign, was the attacking with the backline and I think we’ve found a bit of confidence on this tour now,” he said.