Carr: We're closing the gap on Kiwi sides
Cape Town - Their last three results might tell a different story, but loose forward Nizaam Carr believes the Stormers are closing the gap between themselves and the New Zealand sides in Super Rugby.
Having beaten the Chiefs at Newlands back on April 8, the Stormers remain the only non-New Zealand side to beat New Zealand opposition in this year's tournament.
But, after that, the wheels fell off somewhat.
The Stormers were beaten by the Lions at Newlands (29-16) and were then hammered on their tour of New Zealand when they lost to the Crusaders (57-24), Highlanders (57-14) and Hurricanes (41-22).
It was a sobering few weeks for a side that had started the season with six straight wins, and while they shipped 24 tries on that Kiwi tour alone, Carr still believes they have closed the gap on the New Zealand sides compared to where they were this time, last year.
"I think last year the gap was a bit bigger but we've made some good progress," he said.
"We've trained better and smarter and it's a good thing for us. Nobody expected us to beat the Chiefs at Newlands. We were the underdogs, but we showed the world that we could play against them.
"We didn't do too well on tour, but at times we did put them (NZ sides) under pressure. We had a chat to some of the Hurricanes after the game and they said to us that they didn't know what plans to do against us ... their plans weren't working. I think we're on the right track."
When the Stormers met the Chiefs in the 2016 quarter-finals at Newlands, they were smashed 60-21. When looking at the Chiefs result this season it does at least show some steps in the right direction.
But what exactly do the South African sides have to do to get onto the New Zealand level?
That appears to be the million dollar question ... so much so that the Stormers even have a dedicated day once a week called 'Kiwi Day' when they up the intensity and skills and looks specifically to move closer to the New Zealand sides.
Skills aside, conditioning is often identified as one area where the Kiwi sides have an advantage over South African opposition, with the last 20 minutes of numerous matches supporting that theory.
But Carr doesn't think that is the case.
"Someone mentioned that the fitness level is not there, but I think that's not true," he said.
"We train extremely hard and the fitness levels are definitely there.
"I think it's all in your preparation and how you go about that. At the end of the day, you have to pitch up. We did struggle with that (on tour).
"But as we saw in the first six games, if we play with the tempo that we did we will put any team to bed.
"If you make one error, the New Zealand teams are going to score against you. So if we sharpen up on that I think we will close the gap."
Carr also put some of the struggles on tour down to "bad luck".
"We're not really getting the rewards and we are pulling it off in our preparations, off the field," he said.
"We're doing a lot of work behind the scenes and at times the luck doesn't go our way. Against the New Zealand teams, the bounce of the ball will go their way and they'll score off that so I think if we get a bit more luck it will definitely go our way as well."
The Stormers have an opportunity to return to winning ways when they host the Blues at Newlands on Friday night.
Kick-off is at 19:00.