CAPE TOWN – Stormers coach Robbie Fleck praised his team’s improved defensive effort in their 30-22 win over the Blues at Newlands on Friday.
The Stormers were more aggressive on defence and put a number of driving-back tackles on show, while they also showed some good line-speed, especially in the second half.
Unlike on tour, the hosts weren’t guilty of an unacceptable number of missed tackles, and Fleck said it was pleasing to see that their hard work showed. “It’s something we worked incredibly hard on (defence) and this week it paid off. Again, we are still making mistakes defensively – it’s new to us,” Fleck said.
“We certainly put them under pressure, especially in the second half. The decision-making by certain individuals put the Blues’ big ball-carriers under pressure.
“It was good to see our boys knocking them back and getting them behind the advantage line. Three of their tries came from offloads where we probably weren’t as aggressive as we should have been.”
Fleck wasn’t the only one who was impressed by his side’s fixed-up defence, as Blues coach Tana Umaga admitted that the Stormers made their one-match visit to South Africa a tough one.
“The Stormers’ intensity on defence... they had a good plan in place to put pressure on our runners, and they were able to slow our ball down. They were relentless. It was a difficult day for us,” Umaga said.
“Our boys stepped up too. It was just towards those dying minutes that they couldn’t hold on, so those are things that we need to look at.”
The Stormers know all too well what it feels like to not be able to “hold on” – and their win over the Blues should at least provide some comfort after their tour to New Zealand.
On tour against the Crusaders, the Hurricanes and the Highlanders, the Stormers looked good early on, but the Kiwis completely ran away with the game on all three occasions.
And Fleck was relieved that they didn’t have to deal with a five-match losing streak in Round 13, after also losing to the Lions before the tour.
“It’s not easy taking four losses in a row. We’ve just got to keep working hard. At 19-10 (down), I felt that’s where we really started to play. We started to get more aggressive on defence and we executed our game plan. I felt our conditioning definitely came through in the end there,” Fleck said.
The coach added that their win over the Blues was a good confidence boost, and said they were going to stick to their new approach regardless of the Sharks’ “big mauling” and “good kicking game” at Kings Park next Saturday.
“It certainly gives us confidence, but it just shows all these New Zealand teams are tough to beat. It obviously gives us a bit of a boost playing at home in front of our fans.
“One of our goals was to beat four of the five New Zealand teams, knowing we had to play three away from home. We also said we had to win two at home against New Zealand teams, and we achieved that. It definitely gives the guys a bit of confidence.
“The Sharks pose different challenges to the Kiwi sides, but we’ve chosen our path. I’m just glad that who we are, came through in those last 30 minutes and that’s what we’re going to focus on.
“The Sharks are tough upfront, they’re a big mauling side and they’ve got a good kicking game, but we’ve got to keep working on what we want to create here.”