Fleck pleased Stormers passed litmus test
Gavin Rich - SuperSport.com
Cape Town - Stormers coach Robbie Fleck admits that he was more nervous than usual as his team went into their Super Rugby clash with the Blues at Newlands at the weekend.
Not only had his training plans been disrupted by a hectic flu epidemic that was playing havoc with selection right up until the eve of the game, Fleck also knew that the game would be a litmus test for the improvements he felt had been made on what was a losing tour of Australia and New Zealand.
Fleck said after his team returned from New Zealand that he felt there had been significant improvements and most who had watched the Stormers play against the Crusaders and Highlanders in particular would have agreed that there were signs of growth. However, as Fleck noted, the talking needed to be backed up by a positive result once the team returned home.
“This was a massive game for us as we knew that we needed to win it to put substance to the improvements we have made,” said Fleck after the rousing 37-20 win at Newlands.
“If we had lost today it might have looked like the efforts on tour all came to nothing. We as a group know we must just focus internally and be honest about our performances, we know we are making progress, but it is important to win and there was a lot of pressure going into this game.”
That pressure won’t ease as now that Fleck’s men have a home win over a Kiwi team under the belt there is pressure on them to back it up by beating the Reds at Newlands next weekend. That will give the Stormers some confidence as they head into a challenging sequence of three away derbies in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban.
“It is important for us to develop some consistency. We saw enough on tour to show us we are on the right track. I think today we showed that if we can get it right consistently, we could be a top team. But even though they will be in South Africa we have three tough games to come after the Reds game. We didn’t win away until towards the end of last year’s competition, and that is what we start needing to do. We have to learn to win away from home.”
The Blues game was the first Stormers match at Newlands since their win over the Jaguares in the opening weekend, but it was impressive enough to fill the Stormers fans with hope. And the performance was even more noteworthy because of the illness that had ravaged the squad since before the final tour match against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
“We were stoked with the win and I was very happy with the first half,” said Fleck.
“We lost our way in the second half, but that was to be expected. It was a very challenging week for us with everyone being sick. However, we were determined to win and we took the intensity of the Thursday and Friday training sessions into the game. Our start set the tone. It was great to see the little passes working and our attention to detail on defence was excellent.
“If you give guys like the Ioane brothers and Sonny Bill Williams space you are in trouble. I think that the Lions gave them too much space last week and that is why they lost. It was a challenging week for us as a group and it is great to have come through it with a win. But we are not there yet. We acknowledge that. If we could put back to back performances together that would be a big step and that is what we are aiming to do.”
For once the Stormers were in the happy position of not having any injuries to worry about after the game.
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