CAPE TOWN – As much as the Stormers wanted to wipe away their 40-3 mauling at Loftus almost a month ago now, the scars inflicted by the Bulls ran deep.
It was not only a thrashing on the scoreboard, but crucially it forced the Stormers management team to re-evaluate their entire strategy.
Like captain Siya Kolisi said in the immediate aftermath, the baby could easily have been thrown out with the bath water at that stage. Fortunately, though, for everybody involved nobody panicked and there was simply a greater focus on the basics instead.
This limited game plan was enough to carve out manful victories over the Lions (home) and Sharks (away) – teams the Stormers have struggled against in recent years – with the forwards, in particular, grinding down the opposition.
“We took a big knock in that Bulls game. Going into the Bulls game we had a lot of confidence. So, we just wanted to build the confidence in the group again with some wins which was the most important thing,” coach Robbie Fleck said.
“For us it was (about) getting back on the horse. We didn’t care how we won, as long as we won. We did that in the last minute against the Lions and we were able to maintain our composure against the Sharks as well. I felt that from a tactical and game plan point of view, we were very good against the Sharks.”
Fleck admitted that it was not only the players who required a confidence-booster, but an inexperienced management team as well.
“We have to remember there were new coaches involved too. From Dobbo (John Dobson), Dawie (Snyman) to Norman (Laker), it is never easy to take in a big loss in your first game in Super Rugby,” he said.
“For them it was also about building their confidence. It really has been about steadying the ship, it could easily have listed, and with the pressures that comes with the Cape Town media and their expectations. Our players need to adapt and deal with these pressures.”
For all the impressive work that Eben Etzebeth, Pieter Steph du Toit & Co have produced over the past fortnight, Fleck knows that there needs to be greater enterprise among the backs going forward.
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The Stormers have only scored two tries so far in the competition, through a late winner by Herschel Jantjies against the Lions and an intercept try from Damian Willemse in Durban.
With the Jaguares lying in wait at Newlands on Friday evening before a tour to Australasia, solely forward dominance will not be sufficient.
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