16 May 2018

A 25-man DHL Stormers squad has arrived for an historic first trip to Hong Kong, where they will face the Hito-Communications Sunwolves in the first ever Mitsubishi Estate Super Rugby match held in the city on Saturday (kick-off at 13.15).  

DHL Stormers Head Coach Robbie Fleck has named an experienced squad for the one-match tour, which will see them take on the Sunwolves at the Mong Kok Stadium in what he has labelled a must-win match and a defining moment for his side’s fortunes this season.

Following their 15-9 defeat against the Chiefs last Saturday, the Stormers will be looking to return to winning ways away from home and keen to improve their position on the table as they are currently tied for bottom in a tight South African conference where just one point separates second from fifth place.

“We can’t afford to drop any games,” said Fleck in Hong Kong.  “While we don’t want to look beyond Saturday, we have done our homework and we reckon it is going to take another 20 points to qualify for the play-offs. We’re going to have to do as much as we can.

“It’s a tough conference and it’s certainly not over for us. We’re very much in the mix and I think three South African teams will qualify for the play-offs and that it will go right down to the death. For the Sunwolves it is about developing their game, growing and getting confidence, but for us we have to win. If we lose this game then we are gone [out of the play-offs],” Fleck added.

Despite the pressure Fleck is cognizant of the wider mission to promote Super Rugby and the DHL Stormers brand in new markets.

“Rugby is rugby but it is really important for us that the guys get to enjoy a new city, a new culture and experience something different. But ultimately at the end of the day it is about us winning on Saturday,” added the ex-Springbok centre.

Fleck will be hoping that Stormers’ attack comes to the fore against the Sunwolves’ improving defence: “Our game is based on a very strong pack, and we are very proud of it; obviously that will play a role on the weekend, but we have some very exciting young backs and we would like to think that our game is evolving into something quite exciting,” Fleck added.

“From a Hong Kong perspective, we have to do the game a bit of justice and play a brand that we can be proud of; Super Rugby is about exciting rugby and this is an opportunity for both teams to showcase what it is all about.

“In terms of attack we are top five in most stats this season, so we are comfortable in attack, but our defence - especially away from home, has been an issue. We have conceded a fair amount of tries away so this game is going to be a defining moment for us.

“It is a must win and whatever tactics we bring are to be decided on the day, but we would like to think that the people coming to watch will see a good example of what Super Rugby is all about.”

While it will be the first-ever Super Rugby game in Hong Kong, the DHL Stormers will be out to maintain their unbeaten run against the Sunwolves, since they joined the competition in 2016.

“Sunwolves are an exciting team and we enjoy watching them play. They play a very smart game and they can hang on to the ball well and put you under pressure, which is also exciting. It's just a matter of time for them I think. It has taken the Jaguares a few years to get used to Super Rugby and the more international players the Sunwolves can bring into their system the better they are getting.

“You have to be at your best to beat them now,” Fleck said of the Sunwolves.

DHL Stormers touring squad: Nizaam Carr, Damian de Allende, Jan de Klerk, Paul de Wet, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Dewaldt Duvenage, JJ Engelbrecht, JC Janse van Rensburg, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi (captain), Dillyn Leyds, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, SP Marais, Scarra Ntubeni, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Raymond Rhule, Carlu Sadie, Ramone Samuels, Seabelo Senatla, Kobus van Dyk, Chris van Zyl, EW Viljoen, Cobus Wiese.