Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – At
least it’s over … the Stormers finally head home after what, statistically and
otherwise, must go down as their worst overseas tour in Super Rugby history.
books from a trio of New Zealand fixtures will starkly show that they came
closest, if that is the right word, in their final encounter against the
Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday, albeit still going down by a gaping 19
also failed to pick up a single log point in the so often traumatic, fruitless
mission, and conceded a gory total of 155 points while registering only 60 of
of all, and something that should be giving their salaried defensive
strategists a special attack of heebie-jeebies, was that they haemorrhaged 24
tries over the three fixtures, an average of precisely eight per game.
say the Stormers of 2017, and also at some stages of 2016, have turned full
circle from the hallmarks of old: under Allister Coetzee’s generous tenure they
were seriously resilient on defence while accused of falling short of the silverware
through noticeable inertia on attack.
Fleck regime has unquestionably shown budding signs at times of repairing that
predictability as an offensive factor, though right now the sacrifice in “who
forgot to bolt the gate?” terms is proving hugely problematic and hardly
suggesting they are any closer yet to securing even semi-final calibre in the
It is a
little bizarre that we have to give some credit for general improvement in the
Cake Tin on Friday, even as the try count read 7-1 in favour of the defending
champions; in soccer terms, that would only suggest you were played right off
the case, especially when you consider that so much of the Stormers match-day
squad for this game had a pronounced “dirt-tracker” feel to it and many pundits
had initially feared a more painful thrashing.
lopsided try column remains embarrassing, and is cause for deep review over the
fortnight before the Stormers are next in action – probably with a considerably
more experienced combination – against the Blues at Newlands.
But it also
does no justice to just how close, warts and all, the greenhorn-laden visitors
actually came in scoreboard terms to upsetting the ‘Canes.
protracted periods before and after halftime where the Stormers harried their
much-fancied hosts vigorously off their stride, forcing error upon error which
saw the Capetonians creep steadily back into the picture with a string of
penalties for acting place-kicker SP Marais after flyhalf Robert du Preez had
succumbed to a shoulder injury.
the hour mark, and believe it if you wish, Siya Kolisi’s men had locked things
up at 22-22 (helped, it must be said, by the Hurricanes’ contrastingly flaky
kicking off the tee) and were rumbling their way toward snatching a sensational
their lack of composure and naivety came back to roost at a really bad time, as
the Hurricanes - always comfortable and imperious running from deep and off
mistakes or turnovers - transferred pressure in a flash and it was, finally,
game over as they turned screws in the last 10 minutes or so.
fairly makeshift Stormers party will board the flight for the long haul
homeward knowing that they had clawed back a modicum of self-respect, with Kolisi
to the fore as a motivator and for restless personal energy.
might have buckled completely well before the change-around, instead it was as
if someone turned off the airy-fairy switch and the Stormers twigged that they
actually had some teeth – several of their players with precious little Super
Rugby experience were scrapping conspicuously valiantly right to the final
Zealand television commentators, unless they were being a touch patronising,
insisted at the finish that these Stormers will start winning matches again once back on South
African soil, such had been their tenacity.
probably struck the correct note, too, in his immediate post-match interview,
when he said: “We knew we couldn’t fix everything in a week … I just asked for
more physicality and work-rate and (got it).
learnt more from these four (most recent) losses than we did from the six wins
in a row before them.”
faithful will wish to see tangible benefits from his statement, of course -
and extremely soon.
happen: the Stormers overwhelmingly start playing sides again who you could
submit are back in their particular league …
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