'Make or break' year for Stormers - Paulse

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    08 Feb 2018     Getty Images

Twice beaten in the quarterfinals in the last two seasons, the Stormers needed to take a 'now or never' approach into the new season, Paulse said.

A 79-game veteran for the Stormers with 64 Test caps Paulse told, "Knowing the type of competitor that Fleckie is, this is a big year for him, and obviously for the team.

"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," he said.

Having been able to use those two years to develop a settled team they should be able to reflect that support this year.

"The last few seasons haven't been the greatest, so it's time to deliver," he said.

It had been easier under the previous structure of Super Rugby to qualify as one of three South African sides in the playoffs but under the changed format only the winner of the South Africa Conference is guaranteed a playoff berth.

Paulse said more consistency would be required across the campaign which this year returns to games in both the Australian and New Zealand Conferences.

The Stormers open their season playing the Jaguares at home then set out for Australasia where they play the Waratahs, Crusaders and Highlanders.

Paulse said that in spite of some injuries, including lock Eben Etzebeth missing the first three months of the season, it was the Stormers' pack who could be the point of difference.

Fleck can still call on Springbok flanker Siya Kolisi, lock Pieter-Steph du Toit, prop Steven Kitshoff and hooker Bongi Mbonambi to provide the spine of a strong pack.

"On paper the Stormers' forwards will compete with any pack in the world," Paulse said.

"Fleckie 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," he said.