CAPE TOWN – Inquests will take place at the Stormers’ high performance centre in Bellville this week after a disastrous New Zealand tour that yielded three heavy defeats.
Record 57-24 and 57-14 losses to the Crusaders and Highlanders respectively were followed by a 41-22 defeat against defending Super Rugby champions the Hurricanes last Friday.
The Stormers conceded 23 tries and 155 points in the three tour matches and only scored 60 points. For coach Robbie Fleck there is a week to stew and chew over these matters as the Stormers have a bye.
Losing in New Zealand is not unusual occurrence for South African teams‚ but the nature of the losses will be under scrutiny when Fleck and his staff dissect the situation in the coming days.
The Stormers’ defence has completely fallen apart and their attack‚ which was New Zealand-esque in the first six rounds‚ has wilted in the face of the intensity of Kiwi teams’ line speed.
The Stormers could hardly fashion a meaningful attacking move and by the second half against the Hurricanes they had reverted to the rolling maul as the only means of attack.
The breakdown is almost non-existent‚ which is another aspect of their regression that will need to be addressed.
Defence coach Paul Treu has been a low profile presence this year‚ quietly going about his work. But after this tour his role as to come into question as well.
Of course the defence coach‚ like skills‚ set piece and attack coaches‚ is only effective if he is given enough time to do his work on the training pitch.
Fleck has continually talked of his side being courageous and ‘playing with ball in hand’‚ which does raise the question of whether the head coach is becoming too seduced by the notion of attacking rugby.
Ultimately Fleck’s job is on the line even if the Stormers make the playoffs for a second successive season.
The nature of the competition structure means that the Stormers are all but into the playoffs as leaders of the Africa 1 conference because the Bulls‚ Cheetahs and Sunwolves have been so poor.
The Bulls have won three of nine‚ the Cheetahs are on a seven-match losing streak and the Sunwolves only have one win from 10 matches.
The Stormers are 12 points clear of the Bulls with four NZ teams behind them and only the Blues to come‚ at Newlands on May 19.
Even if they don’t win that‚ they should still easily make the post season as the Bulls are in a mess and the Cheetahs are about to embark on their daunting tour that starts against the Blues in Auckland and is followed by the Hurricanes and Sunwolves away.
Making the playoffs is no longer a measure of success.
- TMG Digital/TMG Sport