Paulse believes it’s time for the Stormers to deliver
As the Stormers embark on their third Super Rugby campaign under the guidance of coach Robbie Fleck‚ former franchise great Breyton Paulse believes that 2018 is the year for the coach‚ and the team‚ to come of age.
Over the past two seasons the Stormers have made the Super Rugby play-offs‚ only to lose in the quarterfinals‚ and Paulse believes that it’s now or never for Fleck to take his team to the top.
“Knowing the type of competitor that Fleckie is‚ this is a big year for him‚ and obviously for the team‚” Paulse‚ who played 79 times for the Stormers‚ said.
“He is now ready to step it up and the time is right to make the team gel.
"In 2018 he should be able to fully implement the ideas he’s had in his mind for the last two seasons.
“After being in the job for just over two years now‚ he will be thinking that with the quality of the squad he has and the settled team at his disposal‚ they should step it up this season.
“The last few seasons haven't been the greatest‚ so it’s time to deliver.”
The structure of the tournament when it was 18 teams in 2016 and 2017 made qualifying for the play-offs simpler with three places in the South African conference available.
This year the tournament reverts to 15 teams with only the winner of the SA conference guaranteed a play-off berth.
Making the post season will require more consistency across the entire campaign and in matches against teams from both the Australian and New Zealand conferences.
The Stormers have a tough draw with an opening home match against the Jaguares followed by an Australasian tour that sees them play against the Waratahs‚ Crusaders and Highlanders.
Given the tough tour coming so early in their season‚ it makes winning their opening game against the Jaguares imperative to start the campaign on a positive note.
Paulse‚ capped 64 times by the Springboks and still the Stormers’ all-time leading try scorer with 35‚ believes it’s the Stormers’ pack that could be the point of difference this year despite some injury concerns going in to the campaign.
Lock Eben Etzebeth will miss the first three months of the season at least due to a shoulder injury while tighthead props Wilco Louw and Frans Malherbe are both likely to miss the first few weeks‚ at least.
But with Boks - flank Siya Kolisi‚ lock Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ prop Steven Kitshoff and hooker Bongi Mbonambi – they have the spine of a strong pack.
“On paper the Stormers’ forwards will compete with any pack in the world‚” Paulse says.
“Fleckie (coach Robbie Fleck) just has to activate them in the right way.
“Most of the players in the pack have been in the set up for a while‚ they have experience and they have skill. They have everything going for them and there can be no excuses this season.”