Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard many people say the Stormers are going to endure Part Two of their 2016 Super Rugby quarter-final against the Chiefs if they don’t fix their defence.
It’s been said that in one too many games has defence seemed like an afterthought for Robbie Fleck’s guys, and their 41-33 win over the Bulls at the weekend had fans and couch coaches throwing that statement around even more.
No one can say the Stormers haven’t done better on defence in previous games than they did in their last group-stage game against their old foes, or in the second last one against Sunwolves and maybe even against the Cheetahs, that’s for sure.
And it wasn’t just the Stormers’ defence under scrutiny since their second win over the Bulls this season.
They have also been criticised for playing to “loosely” and for not using their forwards’ physicality enough (against both the Sunwolves and Bulls).
And yes, they did concede five tries to the Bulls and some of those were very soft, and their game certainly wasn’t structured enough at all times.
But there has also been a lot of positives they’ve hopefully been able to take from their last few matches and into Saturday’s quarter-final at Newlands.
Against the Bulls, the Stormers at times halted their attack with their line speed, and although it wasn’t the same as the defence they produced in their revenge-win over the Chiefs at Newlands earlier this season or against the Blues after their horror tour to New Zealand, there were glimpses of it.
They can also feel confident about the kind of tries they’ve scored over the past two weeks.
A lot of those came on the counter-attack or from broken play by their lethal back three, and there have also been concerns that not enough of those tries were scored from structured play or from set-piece dominance.
But the fact they are scoring those tries, regardless of how they originate, is an important factor that hasn’t been receiving the recognition it should.
It’s great that counter-attack has been an absolute strength for them this season, and it’s great to see they can be that dangerous in the area.
It’s no secret that the best way, most often the only way, to beat the likes of the Crusaders, the Chiefs, the Hurricanes and the Highlanders is by outscoring them.
They don’t kill themselves with anxiety about how many mistakes they make, as long as the tries keep rolling in.
So yes, the Stormers need to fix their defence before Saturday, but they’ve been scoring tries and that is just as important.
There’re their lineouts which also need fixing, and then there’re the scrums – although they have been able to gain overall ascendancy at the set-piece, it might not hurt to gain even more.
And they also need to look after the ball a bit better by cutting down their mistakes.
But one thing they need to keep doing is scoring tries.
Whether it’s on the counter-attack or from fine attack that stems from a superb set-piece display, they just need to keep crossing the tryline.
After all, defence is important, but you won’t beat the Kiwis by channeling all your attention into that area.