One thing that Stormers coach Robbie Fleck always believed in was his youngsters in his squad but he told Stormers MAG that they need to learn to swim before he throw them in Super Rugby.
Over the last two season as head coach at the Stormers was always willing to give youngsters a change when the opportunity arise. Some successes came out of this and he believes it will serve the union well in the years to come.
JD Schickerling, Cobus Wiese, Brandon Thomson and Jean-luc du Plessis, Daniel du Plessis, EW Viljoen and Leolin Zas were all under the age of twenty two when they started at the Stormers.
Damian Willemse also made a impressive debut of the bench earlier this year.
Fleck told Stormers MAG ” I certainly like backing youngsters at Super Rugby level, I myself came from a group of relatively young players in my debut season back in 1988 and, if you get the balance right between youth and experience, then you’ll be successful for the next three or four years.”
“Already the guys we backed last year have taken their game to the next level and their performances this season reflecting that.”
Although Fleck has always back his youngsters, he admits that injuries in the squad sometimes hand young players and opportunity earlier than planned.
You can not be scared to expose these players when this kind of opportunity arrives even it is a forced decision.
Fleck also understand that you need to manage these players carefully. This is not just a case of lets throw them in and see if they can swim Super Rugby is a high tempo high class competition which demand allot from players week in and week out.
At the Stormers even if Fleck believes a player is ready to step up, there is still a process to eases these players into the environment long before he step on the field for the first time.
Damien Williamse is a great example as he has been part of the squad for many of the weekends this year and even though he did not get onto the park for the Stormers he is in the change room, in the hotel before the games and warming up with the team.
He also attend team meetings before and after matches which all add to a world of experience he gain which he might not have gain if he was pushed into the team to quickly.
Fleck does this with allot of the youngsters and this will add great experience which he believe they will get back from in the years to come.
Three youngsters that coach Fleck has been impressed with so far….
EW Viljoen – Debut at 21 years and EW is one of the best outside centres coming out of the system. He had the opportunities this year also to show his class and a player to forward to in the years to come.
Cobus Wiese – Debut at 19 years and Fleck has been impressed by his fitness, speed and power with just the right amount of aggression. He still have allot to learn but Fleck has been impressed with his progress.
Damien Willemse – Debut at 18 years this youngster is the one Fleck believes allot in at the pivot role of flyhalf. Although Fleck believes he is ready for Super Rugby he still want to prepare him to be the best he can be when he does make the step-up.
That Western Province young rugby is healthy, there is now doubt, the problem for Felck and the union will be to develop them right and keep them in the union.