Time for underperforming Stormers backline to support their world-class pack

CAPE TOWN – Often our greatest strength can also be a weakness. Just take the Stormers for instance.

They possess a set of forwards that will put many international packs which will compete in this year’s World Cup to bed. And it’s not just the starting eight.

Despite losing the colossal figure of Eben Etzebeth in the build-up to the Hurricanes game, they were still able to field a power-packed group. And when the strength in depth was tested even further after the loss of both locks JD Schickerling and Salmaan Moerat by halftime, they still continued to rumble along at the Cake Tin. It certainly is the envy of most teams competing in Super Rugby.

So, what’s the problem then?

Like most things in this world too much of a good thing ultimately becomes bad. And the Stormers are no different. Every team has to maximise its strong suit, but when it becomes the sole mode of attack then there’s an issue.

Robbie Fleck’s teams scored three tries from the rolling maul, but looked inept to find any other means of crossing the whitewash in Wellington. Flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis not only kicked poorly out of hand, but seemed devoid of any means to ignite the players outside of him.

Crucially, though, it does not seem that the backline is being equipped with any creative plans to break down the opposition defence.

There’s no doubt the forward unit needs to applauded for their sterling efforts every week, but they will need the help of the teammates at the back at some point if the Stormers are to break their 11-game losing streak in New Zealand, especially against a Blues team that will be up for the rough stuff upfront this week at Eden Park.

“We definitely want to continue playing with this strong pack of forwards. It is credit to them. They have been working incredibly hard over the past three weeks and it now reflects on the field. They are not scared of work,” Stormers forwards coach Russell Winter said.

“I do think their pack (Blues) poses a different threat though. They have a big pack of forwards, and definitely like to grind it up front. They are a lot more physical and they have a lot more ball carriers, which carry a slightly different challenge for us. We also want to show something different in our game. We’re working hard on it. Hopefully we can add some variations in the weeks to come.”

109236652 - Time for underperforming Stormers backline to support their world-class pack
Perhaps it’s time to re-think the possibility of Damian Willemse at flyhalf? Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

With the Stormers seeking for some “variation” in their game, maybe the time has come to revisit Damian Willemse at flyhalf. The utility back may not have had the best of outings off the bench against the Canes, but he will at least look to put his teammates into space with his long pass and test his opposite number with those dancing feet.

Dillyn Leyds certainly delivered a performance that should ensure he stays at 15 for some time, prompting the change at first five instead.


Cape Times

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