The Investec Stormers are looking forward to a tough game against Wasps in London on Sunday afternoon and want to make the most of their last preparation match for the Super 12, which kicks off on February 25 with a match against the Sharks.
Appointed captain for the season, Neil de Kock, said while he was “very happy” with the way the preparation went thus far, there are still areas of the Stormers’ game that is reason for concern.
“There are certain aspects of our game that need polishing and I am sure Wasps will provide us with quality opposition that will stand us in good stead for the Super 12. They did not win the English and European championships for nothing,” said the scrumhalf.
“It will be a good, tough traveling trip for us and we will get good preparation.”
De Kock, who saw his first bit of action since returning from a shoulder injury that cut short his season last year, said last Friday’s performance against the Gwent Dragons in Dubai was good, but not completely satisfactory.
“Look, we struggled a bit for cohesion in the first half and judged on that performance there are a few aspects of our game that we would like to work on. It was a good win, but not at all convincing. The continuity we are looking for in our type of game was not there and we must work harder at keeping the ball in hand for longer periods.
“The Northern Hemisphere style of rush defence will put our backline to the test and we will have to find a way to counter that type of defence. It will be beneficial for us going into the Super 12.”
On a personal level, De Kock said he was feeling good after having his first spell on the field last Friday night. “I am feeling pretty good and it was good to get the first outing out of the way. But obviously Bolla (Conradie) must also get some game time against Wasps, as he is also just returning from injury (to his hand).
“It is our last opportunity to get up to match pace before the season kicks off, so we got to make use of the chance.”
He believes Wasps will provide the Stormers a stern test, even though the Stormers would probably not encounter the type of conditions expected on Sunday too often during the Super 12.
“They will give us excellent preparation for the Super 12. The conditions could be similar to what we can expect in Dunedin in our second game. Not only will Wasps test our attacking abilities with their rush defence, but they have a good pack that will put us under pressure.
“They will be without a few stars due to international commitments, but they are not one of the top clubs in Europe for nothing. They have a lot of depth and they will provide us with a good test all-round.”
De Kock said the Stormers are fortunate to have a pretty healthy squad at the moment. “The injury to Hendrik Gerber was obviously a big blow, but other then that we are in pretty good shape at the moment. However, injury is something you don’t have control of.
“I believe we are ready to stand up whatever test Wasps will put us through on Sunday though,” concluded De Kock.
Veteran British Lions and England No 8 Lawrence Dallaglio will be leading the home side on Sunday. Other former England internationals who will contribute to ensure it will not be a walk in the park for the Stormers are lock Simon Shaw, hooker Phil Greening and flyhalf Alex King.
Former Samoan hooker Trevor Leota and All Black prop Craig Dowd will add more firepower to the pack.