Raring to end our rut
Sport24 columnist Michael Rhodes (File)
To lose at the death in Bloemfontein on Saturday was heart-breaking. It was a game we both wanted and needed to win in order to get our season back on track.
In the past couple of seasons, the Stormers have been renowned for winning the tight games, but at the moment the class of 2013 seem to be on the opposite end of the equation.
In order to remedy this, I believe we need to pick up our concentration levels in the final 10 minutes of matches.
Conceding a tighthead at the end was certainly the turning point against the Cheetahs. The match-winning penalty stemmed from that momentary lapse. We know that’s not acceptable and is something we will address at Stormers HQ this week.
The Cheetahs though deserve credit for winning their fifth consecutive match - a new Super Rugby record for them. They play an attractive brand of rugby and their loose forwards in particular are really making a name for themselves.
From a personal viewpoint, it was great earning my Stormers’ debut having nursed a hamstring injury in the early rounds of the campaign. It felt good to be back on the playing field and was rewarding getting a crucial 80 minutes under the belt.
While our lineout struggled against the Crusaders a week earlier, against the Cheetahs it was on song owing to greater emphasis during the week. We went back to basics and simplified the setpiece.
However, while our lineout functioned well, our scrums let us down against the Cheetahs. As the Sharks are a fine scrummaging side, we will have to be on top of our game in that department.
Having played for the Sharks, I know just what to expect from them at Newlands on Saturday. While they will attempt to dominate the set phases, they are also a very physical side that rely on generating momentum.
As a blindside flank, I’m aware that my role in the side is to be aggressive on defence. I am also tasked with halting the opposition’s momentum on attack.
When the Stormers are on attack, I enjoy my role as a ball carrier and relish breaking the gain-line.
While I believe there is still a role for the fetcher in the modern game, it is best not to commit too many numbers to the breakdown as you need as many bodies as possible in your defence line - particularly against the men from Durban who possess slick backs.
While the Sharks will aim to dominate the collisions, I’ve noticed that they have slightly adapted their strategy to incorporate more of a kicking game. They play for territory and therefore our back three will have to be on point when fielding and returning kicks.
Losing Elton Jantjies to injury is a big blow, but it affords another player a chance to prove his worth at Super Rugby level. I felt Gary van Aswegen did a more than decent job when he came on against the Cheetahs in the latter stage of the game.
As the season progresses, injuries will naturally take their toll. While it’s also a blow to be without the services of Schalk Burger and most recently Jaco Taute, it’s key that you have depth to call upon, which I believe we possess in the Cape.
In seasons to come, I think depth of playing personnel will become even more apparent.
While Saturday’s encounter is vital and a must-win home game, as things stands, by no means are we out of contention. We may be going through something of a rut, but have more than enough games in hand to get back into the playoff mix.
A win against the Sharks will be key for us players ahead of our bye and subsequent Australasian tour. However, even more importantly we need to win at Newlands to reward our loyal fans who have stuck by us this season.Michael Rhodes, educated at Michaelhouse, is enjoying his debut Super Rugby season at the Stormers. Follow him on Twitter @MikeRhodes7
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