Set piece woes for struggling Stormers
Cape Town - The statistics from the Stormers' 17-13 loss to the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday tell an interesting story.
The Capetonians had 63% of the ball and made far more carries (120 to 57) and metres (357 to 163) than their opposition.
But for all of their ball, the Stormers could only muster a single try.
So, where did it all go wrong?
According to coach Robbie Fleck, "too many mistakes and too many penalties" cost the Stormers.
They conceded 11 penalties to the Bulls' 14, but they were at crucial times.
The set piece, in particular, hurt the Stormers as scrum penalties were conceded and lineouts lost.
That is an aspect that must be rectified ahead of Saturday's crucial Newlands clash against the Cheetahs.
The Bulls result means that the Stormers have surrendered top spot in the Africa 1 Conference while they have also fallen out of the playoff positions for the first time this season.
"Credit to the Bulls set piece, especially their contesting," Fleck said afterwards.
"They put our lineout under pressure and we obviously couldn’t launch from that.
"A couple of penalties at scrum time kept them in the game in the first half. When it’s a tight game like this you need to dominate set piece, which we didn’t today."
The Stormers, keen on playing attractive ball-in-hand rugby this season, were also criticised for being one-dimensional on attack.
Despite their intent and while their ball retention was good, the Stormers were too lateral and struggled to make the decisive breaks.
"Credit to the Bulls defence. I thought they worked incredibly hard for each other," said Fleck.
"We were attacking pretty well, we were able to retain possession and put them under pressure but they worked incredibly hard and did well to slow our ball down at ruck time.
"We weren’t able to get any quick ball or up the tempo. They brought the tempo down to their pace which didn’t suit us and it became a set piece battle which we probably didn’t want."
The Stormers have four matches left in the group stages, but they must still go on a two-match tour of Australia where they face the Force and the Rebels.
Before that, though, a win over the Cheetahs on Saturday will see them move back into the playoff places.