Stormers lineout reaches new heights
Cape Town - The Stormers' lineout hasn't been one of their strongest attributes this Super Rugby season.
After 13 rounds of fixtures they lie 11th in the competition in terms of lineout success, having won 87.4% of their own throws.
The margins are fine, and the differences between the sides are small, but with Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth in their second row the Stormers boast one of the most enviable lock pairings in world rugby.
The lineout has hardly been problematic for coach Robbie Fleck, but it perhaps hasn't been as dominant as one would expect with names like Etzebeth and Du Toit in the mix.
But, against the Rebels in Melbourne on Saturday, the Stormers put that right.
They won 9 out of 10 lineouts on their own throw and also stole 5 out of 11 of the Rebels' throws.
Etzebeth stole three balls off the opposition while Du Toit stole one, and finally the Stormers displayed the kind of ruthlessness that fans would want to see.
Their lineout combined with what was an incredibly destructive scrum meant that the Stormers owned the Rebels in the set-piece battle as they romped to a 57-31 win.
According to assistant coach Russell Winter, the improvement at lineout time was simply down to hard work.
"I think it's just been a work in progress. You've got to give the players a lot of credit," he said.
"The locks that we have as well as the loose forwards. I think we're just trying to build that culture of good work ethic and staying focused ... and it will come.
"We had a chance to put in a lot of preparation, myself and Fleckie, and we realised that the set-piece would be important.
"It comes down to the preparation that we had done and the individual talent that came through."
Attention now turns to the Force this weekend, where the Stormers can book a home quarter-final with a victory.
But Winter has seen enough this season to know that the Australians pose their own set-piece threat.
"They’ve got a good, solid pack," said Winter.
"On any given day they can really put things together. They’ve got a good set piece as well.
"Their scrums came really good in the second half (against the Cheetahs last weekend) which was something we took note of … the Cheetahs have got a good scrum.
"And their lineout has been functioning throughout the year.
"There has to be zero complacency from us. We’ve just got to make sure that we do our job and that we keep improving every week."
The Stormers will name their side on Thursday.