Loss of locks Stormers’ achilles heel

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iol spt apr28 Stormers-Rhodes Gallo Images The Stormers have been unable to rise above the challenges posed by the regular loss of locks since the start of the season. Photo by Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images

Johannesburg – The Stormers have been unable to rise above the challenges posed by the regular loss of locks since the start of the season and this has been one of the causes of their plummet to the bottom of the Super Rugby log.

To date, first-choice second-row forwards like Eben Etzebeth, De Kock Steenkamp, Rynardt Elstadt, Manuel Carizza and Michael Rhodes have been on the injury list for most of the season.

Reserve talents such as Tazz Fuzani, Ruan Botha and Jean Kleyn were called up to step into the breach, but they too were sidelined with regular monotony.

The loss of first-choice hookers such as Scarra Ntubeni and Tiaan Liebenberg did not help the cause of the untried locks that were called up and the Stormers were unable to arrest the slide from grace.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said on Monday that the regular loss of tight-five players meant the side's set-piece was unable to function satisfactorily.

“One cannot function if your set-piece is not in order and that has been at the heart of our problems,” said Coetzee.

“Locks and hookers are vital positions for functional set-pieces and many of the in-coming players were not good enough to play at this level.”

Coetzee said as a result of the “extraordinary” situation of being without five quality locks at one time, the Stormers were now looking at recruiting as soon as possible.

“It has been frustrating that we were not able to get our game together at a time when we are faced with the extraordinary position of being without five quality locks,” Coetzee said.

“We are discussing the possibility of recruiting an experienced lock because we've seen that you can't blood rookie talents when the team is struggling.

“We need to dominate (in games) before we can bring in new talent.”

The Stormers have also been in the process of transforming their game so that they move away from the ultra-defensive to more attacking patterns.

“The transition has not been easy and we don't want to go back to an out-an-out defensive game for the sake of winning,” he said.

“The way we played won games and we won the SA Conference but it was not the Western Province brand of rugby.

“We now find ourselves having to defend our own set-piece when it should really be our platform to attack. When we lose our lineout ball we end up defending instead of attacking.”

The Stormers decided to free up the players instead of training on Monday in an effort to help them prepare mentally for Saturday's match against the Highlanders at Newlands.

“We have started planning with them (the players) and they now at least have a mental view of how we want to play,” Coetzee said.

“We want to attack more but there are guidelines where that should happen.

“After a good start (against the Cheetahs) we were flat-footed because of a lack of urgency, aggression and workrate.” – Sapa


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