Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck said there hardly exists a better way to open their Super Rugby campaign next weekend at a packed Newlands than against arch-rivals the Bulls from up north.
While the Stormers will be captained by centre Juan de Jongh and assisted by prop Frans Malherbe, the Bulls will be skippered by hooker Adriaan Strauss.
“I am positive it will be a sell-out,” said Fleck.
“We are for sure looking forward to what should be a full house, it’s the traditional foes,” said Fleck at the launch of the competition this week in Randburg at the broadcaster SuperSport’ studios.
“From my side it’s the biggest game in South African rugby and we’ll certainly be up for it,” he said.
Fleck in his days of course played numerous matches for Western Province in midfield against the Bulls and he fondly remembered those games as the biggest on the calendar.
“As a player it was always the true test against formidable opposition and nothing has changed over the years, we said we are preparing well for it, and we certainly expect a big clash against the Bulls,” said Fleck.
It will be Fleck’s debut as head coach of the Stormers after he acted as assistant and backline coach to former coach Allister Coetzee for seven seasons.
“It’s a privilege for me as a head coach to be going first up against the traditional rivals so we are all really excited to get started,” he said.
The Stormers have already suffered two big injury setbacks with lock Jean Kleyn ruled out of the first month or two with an ankle injury, while Springbok centre Damian de Allende will also miss the first half of the competition due to an ankle injury.
Fleck’s counterpart from the Bulls Nollis Marais will also make his debut as head coach having taken over from retired coach Frans Ludeke first in the Currie Cup and now also in Super Rugby.
“What a privilege, born and raised in Pretoria, we were always looking forward to the games north v south,” said Marais.
“I don’t think there’s a better way to start your coaching career than playing the old rivals, and we are looking forward to what will be a massive challenge,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
In the other matches involving SA teams on the opening weekend the Cheetahs host the Jaguares next Friday night, on Saturday the 27th the Kings host the Sharks, while earlier in the day the Lions play away to the Sunwolves in Tokyo.