Stormers are out of shape

Oom Rugby

Hi guys. There many mysteries in the world, for instance who killed President Kennedy? What really happen in the Bermuda Triangle? And why does my wife need so much shampoo, because I can almost not fit into the shower there so many different bottles, even though they all smell the same to me.

Another big mystery is, why can the Stormers not score tries? They have scored the least tries in Super Rugby this year – only 22. But the interesting thing is that at the same time they have the 6th most carries, so they are trying! Something is not lekker here, so I thought I will take a closer look at the Jaguares game from the weekend to see what I can see…

The picture below is part of the problem I think, and that is the shapes that the Stormers creates from ruck to ruck. Shapes is how we using our forwards in relation to our backs, and how we plan to manipulate the defence based on our grouping, spacing and depth. A good shape will stress the defence, a poor shape can cost you the ball.

First, look at the three receiving forwards. They not presenting a picture to worry the Jaguares in any way. Eben is at best a one-off runner, Wiese have his hands on his knees, and Bongi is in motion on his own outside them. They not connected as a group, so they not a threat as a unit. It will be harder for them to generate quick ball, or to be believable bait to give our backs some space.

But the main reason for this shape is Willemse. Earlier in the clip we see him tell the forwards to get behind him because he want to be the first receiver, but in effek he have now taken his tanks off the battlefield… So he will take the ball and then pop it up for Leyds who will run into a flank. This now suck four Stormers into the ruck to protect the ball, including Willemse and both centres.

This is not a wise way to use our resources, but even more frustrating is that this is the second phase after a lineout, so we expecting much better organisation at this point.

It also feel at times like the Stormers is improvising in many situations. For many people, “structured” rugby is a dirty word, but against good defence you must have a clear plan to first try and create cracks in the wall that you can then exploit with sexy play.

Below we see four Stormers forwards in a line. Eben will get the ball, but Coetzee will run into the same space as him calling for a pass. This is not the kind of organisation that promote quick clean ball.

Why do we use forwards in the backline? People think it is just for decoys, but another reason is that contact is actually good! Because when we get contact we get a ruck, and when we create rucks we can create folding problems. Defenders try to get around the ruck and also panic that they have correct numbers on either side.

In the picture below we see Jantjies pass behind two forwards to Du Plessis out wide. The Jaguares can simply push out to attack the second layer of the Stormers attack.

But perhaps if Jantjies hit one of those forwards first then we can make a dent in the Jaguares line… We stop the defensive rush, and if we go wide from there then all the Jaguares must first come around the ruck to go and defend. In a few cases like this the Stormers key decision makers did not do enough hard work first before going on a adventure.

Another contributing factor to the Stormers blunt attack was just poor technique. Below we see Coetzee is ahead of Etzebeth in the pod. How can you support from there? The 8th man Lezana will stop Eben in his track, resulting in both Coetzee and Wiese going past Etzebeth and being unable to protect the ball, which is then stolen.

It is basics! We want our support at a angle behind us, latching or ready for a tip pass or a clean or whatever. Above is not a recipe for the quick ball that the backs crave so much.

But the backs was not always blameless hey. Their alignment off each other was often not very good and they were not able to take the few opportunities that did come their way.

Below we see Du Plessis getting ready to play out. If Kriel was flatter at that red cross then Orlando is in big trouble because he will be committed, and there is still Engelbrecht, Willemse and Senatla waiting on the outside… But with Kriel so deep, Orlando can simply watch and wait and drift out as the ball move down the line.

When you are numbers up, you must force that advantage.

Often the Stormers players – and especially Willemse – just try to do too much on their own. In many cases this was a team playing as individuals and not as a unit and this is maybe the biggest thing I notice.

Below we see a clear chance to put Senatla away but Damian will try to make a jink and the Stormers will concede a turnover.

This kind of behaviour can be because of frustration at the lack of penetration, and that ironically come back to all the things we mention above.

Due to poor shapes, the poor use of shapes, and poor technique within that shapes, the Stormers could not create conditions for effective attack. And so players try to make things happen by themself, but when you improvise too much against a good defence they will just pick you off.

It is easy from my couch and I do not know what the intentions of the players and coaches was, but for my mind the Stormers must go back and simplify the way they play and drill absolute effectiveness into a few basic patterns.

Simple and accurate rugby can open the door for improvisation when the cracks does appear, and that will leave the Stormers in much better shape!

DISCLAIMER: English is Oom’s third language, after Rugby and Afrikaans

- Oom Rugby

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  • Claude Petersen

    Spot on Oom.Simple rugby is how the Crusaders play.A joy to intelligent rugby,which very few of our teams do.its so simple,yet so effective.
    Now these shape stuff..should the coach not teach the boys these things.Surely this can be developed.
    We have the most talented individual players in the world,but of play as individuals,then no team success.

  • Barry

    Thanks very insightful!

    Sorry to annoy a few of the regular Province supporters, but their attacking shape in 2018 was far better than it is now! They are fundamentally the same group of players and coaches, with one exception – Paul Treu! Have they perhaps shot themselves in the foot?

    I also think that our sides are guilty of a bit of arrogance, and I include the Sharks and Bulls in that camp to. The Jaguars defense has improved ten fold, but we are not giving them the respect they deserve! Game plans have not been altered to play down the strong defensive game that the a Jaguars present and we have been punished for that lack of respect!

  • Nick

    Photo’s 5 and 6 are the most damning! Full time pro’s remember! They do this everyday for good tom!
    Ek weet nie….

  • Nick

    Barry, I honestly don’t think arrogance has anything to do with it. I think the rapid Jaguares defence put them under pressure they could not handle.

    • Barry

      Nick I think we’re on the same page, we both agree that the Jaguars defense was good and that all of the Stormers Bulls & Sharks did not actively counter this.

      My mention of arrogance was in respects of the team management not keeping abreast of the progress that the Jaguars have made.

      • OldGitEd

        Agree at the level of arrogance displayed by thinking they can bully and barge over and through anyone only to be on the receiving end. But the highest level of arrogance is in the self-righteous management who think this and more. This is what inept coaching looks like an SA is riddled with it.

  • stfs

    The Stormers seriously need a new coach. Fleck was always a confidence player, at his best he was great, at his worst he would do a knock on behind the posts… this is ok for a player, but not a coach as the whole team follows the coach’s example of frame of mind. All the above is true, they lack the right shapes etc but they also lack the willingness or need to win. Their coach knows he only has a few games left of his tenure and instead of getting his players all G’d up for the effort he is stewing in his own misery. The Stormers are going to need a massive mental overhaul after this disastrous fleck adventure. Good thing (and bad thing) though is that mostly all the big name players will go to the uk and france next year after the WC so Dobson will have it easier to get them past this mental block. He also has the express loyalty of the younger players who have come up under him from the junior side. Bad thing is that Dobson will once again lean heavily on UCT players and mostly ignore Maties (the english/farikaans speaking divide in the WP is still a thing).

  • dbaggins

    Thanks Oom, as always love your work

    This really highlights that rugby(like all team ball sports) is the manipulation of space, the team that wins is the one that is better at manipulating the width and depth of the playing area. You only need to drag one player out of the structure or alignment to create a gap. The trick is knowing how to do it and identifying as a group(not just an individual) when you have actually done it. In the pics above it is clear the stormers can improve in both areas.
    Little simple things like body alignment and pods looking like they will receive the ball (even if they won’t) really matter, to create space and manipulate space.
    The stormers are not very effective at getting teams to lose their defensive structure and hence create options.

    As a defensive unit you are always looking to reset to the structure, alignment and pattern. The best defenses do this the quickest and efficiently , and the worst attacks test this in the least stressful ways.

  • Chris Mouton

    Once again Oom’s article proves to be insightful. What I don’t understand is that a lot of the things he mentioned above is schoolboy rugby. Attacking in diamond shapes in order to either off-load, drive or clean the ball to present fast ball to the backs. Fast rucks with a pick and drive now and then really puts rush defense under pressure. Then there’s the old trek-and-pass. Let the defender commit to you before you pass to your mate in space. The last two screenshots are an atrocity to all backline players! The fact that Willemse didn’t put Senatla in space says a lot about him. He plays as an individual. Rugby is a team sport. Maybe that’s the difference between Willemse and Bosch. Both are young, but look at how Bosch distributes. I would pick Bosch above Willemse any time of the day as he’s a team player.

  • John

    I am not convince this is the problem. The organisation in the backs is chaos but that I would attribute to inexperienced halfbacks. The execution is also a huge problem like, forward passes, dropped balls, 50/50 passes and support runners. How often do we see players isolated? NZ sides always have at least 2 players on the ball carriers shoulder. The bottom line is the quality in the backs is very average. I’m not saying they are not trying, they are trying very hard but the panic is evident the way they play as per some of the things Oom has pointed out. What this side needs is quality halfbacks as does any side if they are going to do well in this competition. Same as it has always been ever since this game was played.

  • Dean

    Maybe the Flyhalf should be the first receiver not always a forward…defense know exactly what they going to do…yes Eben is a big strong guy but they know he is coming and when the flyhalf/playmaker gets the ball it is slow and opposition defensive line has reset to close DW down

    • Barry

      I suspect this was the plan to break the defensive lines, bash through with a big guy, but when that didn’t work, sorry, no plan B!

  • IRC

    So… basically there’s no coaching going on. 15 guys pitch up on a Saturday and just play like a game of touch rugby on the beach. Nice.

  • Barry

    Whilst fully accepting that the shape and attitude of the attack was way off, is the core issue not rather the fact that the strategy was wrong from the outset?

    Even if the Stormers had a better shape on attack, would it really have made that much difference?

    The Jaguars defense is very good, should the plan not have been to rather breach defensive lines with chips over or grubbers through and a strong kicking game to keep the Jaguars in their half of the field?

  • Dean Bright

    It looks like Etzebeth with support runners (usually the flanks) are standing at first receiver in almost every frame. What happened to allowing your halfbacks to make the decisions? What do you have a flyhalf for if you going to play one off runners at first receiver most of the time.

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