Kiwi sides still lead the way at breakdown
Cape Town - There are many areas where the South African sides need to be better if they are to challenge their New Zealand foes in Super Rugby 2017, but the breakdown remains the most important.
That is the view of Stormers coach Robbie Fleck, who will have to pay far more attention to the New Zealand sides this year.
While the Stormers met the Australian franchises in last year's tournament, this year they will switch to the other side of the draw where five daunting clashes against the New Zealand franchises await.
And while Fleck and the rest of the Stormers are putting on a brave face, memories of their 60-21 quarter-final thrashing at the hands of the Chiefs in Cape Town last year will serve as a reminder of how far behind the South African sides (with the exception of the Lions) were in 2016.
There has been a massive emphasis on skills and conditioning in Stormers pre-season as the Capetonians look to give themselves a chance against the likes of the Hurricanes, Chiefs and Highlanders, but it is at the breakdown where Fleck believes the most work needs to be done.
"It certainly has been a focus," Fleck said.
"We’ve brought in John Dobson as a specialist breakdown coach. I felt that was an area that he improved on during the Currie Cup and that’s been his focus this entire pre-season.
"I feel like our breakdown has gone well this pre-season, on defence and attack.
"That’s where the Kiwi sides are ahead. They’re winning effective ball with less numbers and it’s quicker ball. It’s something that we’ve had to work incredibly hard on. Defensively, the Kiwis make better decisions. They don’t over-commit but they are effective when they do and they slow the ball down."