A glimmer of opportunity for Stormers
Gavin Rich - SuperSport.com
Cape Town - They say a week can be a long time in rugby but so can a weekend, as the Stormers have discovered after breaking their sequence of defeats against the Rebels.
The win over the Rebels on its own wouldn’t have been enough to elicit the suggestion that the Cape side might not be as out of the South African Conference race as was thought a week ago when they lost to the Sharks in Durban. But events elsewhere, meaning the losses suffered by the Lions and the Bulls, have conspired in their favour and there is just an outside chance now that they could still come back into the race.
Sound fanciful? Well, let’s throw out the following scenario for consideration – the Stormers showed against the Rebels that they remain a different animal on their home field, and could beat the Bulls and the Chiefs over the next two weekends.
The Lions are in New Zealand over the same period and could lose both games. Then the Stormers go to Hong Kong to play the Sunwolves, and must break their overseas duck at some point. Then it is back to Newlands to play none other than the Lions.
There are currently 13 points separating the Lions from the Stormers, so a two win sequence for the Stormers coupled with a two loss sequence for the Lions could bring the Stormers within a win of challenging the Lions. And if that doesn’t work out for them – the Lions are definitely good enough to win in New Zealand, the Reds defeat was an aberration – then the Bulls’ loss to the Highlanders was also helpful when it comes to the quest for qualification for the play-offs by finishing in the top eight.
Yes, it’s going to mean the Stormers are going to have to grow considerably in terms of both their game and confidence in a short space of time, for their performance against the Rebels was still far from perfect and their defence still looks vulnerable. But there is just a glimmer of hope for coach Robbie Fleck and his charges to cling to as they start preparing for the eagerly anticipated return derby against the Bulls.
For his part, Fleck is keeping his feet firmly rooted to the ground, and while he was encouraged by aspects of the performance against the Rebels, he is far from happy.
“There were glimpses of what we have been trying to achieve this year, but by no means was it a complete performance,” said Fleck after the 34-18 victory.
“We know there is still plenty that we can work on, but we are excited about what we can do. The pressure is still there for us to keep performing, but it was a better performance. It shows what this team can do, at stages we held onto the ball and made good decisions with ball in hand. That try at the end just showed it.
“It was good to see our attacking movements, with those short passes and straight running. We got a bit more width to our game and shifted the point of attack which put them under pressure. There are things in our games that are really good, but there are still some soft moments, so we will keep working on that.”
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