You have got to give it to the DHL Stormers. A defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in Sydney followed by a Jekyll-and-Hyde loss in Christchurch. Do loyal supporters not deserve more?
We are all still scratching our heads trying to figure out how they did it. How often do you see a forward pack crunch the chassis of an opposition as vaunted as the Waratahs and Crusaders at scrum time and absolutely bend them into knots at the ruck, before somehow losing the game!
For perspective, the Stormers won 16 out 17 scrums from their own feed against the two, winning seven penalties at the set-piece.
SEVEN! Winning a penalty every second scrum feed is the unshakeable platform for victory at any level of the game, and points to a chronic habit of squander.
The Stormers have had one of the best forward packs in Vodacom Super Rugby this decade, and its staggering that this pack has held fort while the team has slid into the category of also-rans.
Granted, a beneficial conference system inflated their win-loss ratio in recent seasons – Africa 1 had home-and-away games against uninspired Bulls and Jaguares outfits, while the Sunwolves and Kings were there to boost points differential and bonus point columns. But the Streeptruie always make a fist of contests against better opponents, which at times leads to either surprise victories or keeping scores from blowing out in losing causes, which is down to that pack.
This points to a gameplan that has not evolved since the last days of Allister Coetzee’s regressive tenure and Robbie Fleck’s flailing reign since.
That backline – a hopelessly under-coached rabble – ranks among the most directionless I have seen at this level. Yes, there are talented and exciting individuals among the backs who will get your heart racing, but as a collective they do not deliver nearly enough against organised opponents.
It underlines my point about squandering the hard work of the fatties up front.
To no one’s surprise, the slightness of the outside backs is forever a concern, and they were duly outjumped just about every instance their Antipodean opponents sent the ball skyward. Poetically, all four tries in the 28-45 loss to the Saders were scored by forwards from unrelenting brutality in the tight quarters!
Remember the days when the Stormers could tackle a team into submission, helped irrefutably by the fact that the average backline player in those great teams weighed almost 100kgs?
Apart from centres Damian de Allende and EW Viljoen, who in the backline has the physicality (or tenacity à la Ricky Januarie and Gio Aplon) to make a meaningful impact on the competition? I could also go on a tangent about the off-season recruitment policy which could have addressed some of the issues I have pointed here, but that is a story for another day.
My question here for management is, ‘why have none of the chronic issues been addressed?’
The matches against the Jaguares, Waratahs and Crusaders feel like a continuation of the 2014 to 2017 seasons: much ado about nothing despite the whizz-bang-boom nature of Stormers matches. I have never coached in my life, but if I can figure out what is wrong and what is right from a technical standpoint, then what on earth are the powers that be doing!
Some of the points I have made are not a sum of all that is not quite right at the Stormers, but just a clear-cut observation of an environment lacking in forward-thinking and adaptation to forever-changing trends.
Meanwhile, after brainlessly blowing golden opportunities, one more match remains on this wasted tour against the merciless Highlanders.
Hang in there, old Faithful, for it could be a long season.
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