Mental test awaits struggling Stormers
Cape Town - The Stormers have gone from undefeated in six matches to three straight losses in Super Rugby 2017.
Even more concerning is that they have shipped 21 tries in their last three matches, including a whopping 17 tries in the first two matches of their ongoing New Zealand tour.
A 57-24 loss to the Crusaders was followed by a 57-14 loss to the Highlanders, and the leaky defence is a major worry for the Capetonians heading into Friday's clash against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
The Hurricanes are the most potent attacking side in the competition, having scored 56 tries already in just eight matches.
It is a daunting task for coach Robbie Fleck and his Stormers, and while the defensive frailties might stand out as the area in need of the most urgent attention, Fleck believes instead that the mental state of his players is most important.
"You come off two losses like this and you have to worry about the emotional state of the team," he said.
"We've been been trying to be as constructive as possible in our feedback and as honest as possible in our assessments of our players.
"The players are disappointed and they're hurting, but there's no point in dwelling. We've got a job to do and we've got to get up for this game.
"The guys are keen to keep fighting hard and they get another opportunity on the weekend."
"It's tough when you're taking results like we have been in the last two weeks. The biggest challenge for us at the moment is the mental challenge. The guys are really giving everything at the moment and it's just not going our way."
Fleck acknowledged that the defence was a concern, but he felt that the leaked tries were more a result of mistakes the Stormers were making on attack.
"We've started games very well, been able to score tries early and put pressure on and then a simple mistake lets the opposition back in," he said.
"In the first six games, if we made mistakes we were able to cover up those mistakes and the teams were obviously not good enough to expose us, where over here you make a mistake ... these teams expose you.
"The stats suggest that we're still up there in terms of attack. But what's really hurt us in the last two games is coughing up possession.
"It's the decision making in the areas that are hurting us and I guess it's because we're trying to play more rugby. It's all part of our learning ... hopefully by the time we come back to South Africa we'll be a better team for it, on and off the field."
The Stormers tale on the Hurricanes on Friday, with kick-off at 09:35.