Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says he was “pretty frustrated” with his side’s performance in their 52-15 win over the Sunwolves at the weekend.
And if you watched the game, you’d understand why.
The scoreboard was not at all a reflection of what really went down in the game, as the Sunwolves dominated territory and possession in the first 40, while the Stormers made an unacceptable number of errors, which in turn resulted in a number of scoring opportunities being ruined.
The scrum contest was also one where the Stormers struggled, while the Japanese side also managed to win a turnover or two at the lineouts.
The hosts scored eight tries to the Sunwolves’ two, and a number of those tries were from dangerous individual counter-attacks, and after the match, Fleck made it clear that he wasn’t pleased at all with the night’s proceedings.
“I’m pretty frustrated with the first half performance and the way the game went. It wasn’t going to help our cause at all, we were looking for a bit of continuity and momentum,” the Stormers coach said.
“We just couldn’t get going. Every time they turned over the ball we turned it over again. There were a lot of mistakes and credit to them, they stretched us defensively in the first half. We had to live off scraps.”
“We got a few lucky breaks from turnover ball and the second half was a bit better, but it wasn’t the kind of game that we wanted. I would have liked us to build more phases on attack. Our error rate was too high this week.”
Maybe they expected it to be a bit too easy or maybe the fact that the Stormers suffered two late blows in Springboks Eben Etebeth and Frans Malherbe’s late withdrawals due to the flu influenced them, but one thing is for certain - they can’t afford to take this past weekend’s performance into the quarter-finals, or even against the Bulls.
And it’s something that Fleck is well aware of.
“We’re in a good space at the moment - there’s a lot of enthusiasm in the group and culturally I think we’ve got a good thing going. It shows that the guys really care for each other, tactically and technically we just have to smarten up a little bit,” Fleck said.
One of the highlights of the game was the performances of a number of individuals, including flyhalf Damian Willemse and fullback and Man of the Match Dillyn Leyds.
Willemse produced another fine display in his second start for the Stormers and he was exciting on attack with ball-in-hand, while he also scored a try and nailed four of his six conversions. And Fleck described the youngster’s last first two Super Rugby performances as “special”.
“I thought Willemse was outstanding on attack. He’s still learning and getting to grips with Super Rugby, but for two weeks in a row he’s been pretty special. I like the way he’s controlling the game on attack, to be fair, we couldn’t really get going. But he got enough to put us on the front foot,” Fleck said.
Fleck also said that it was important to continue exposing Willemse to Super Rugby as opposed to Kurt Coleman or Brandon Thomson, who both featured for John Dobson’s SuperSport Rugby Challenge side on Sunday.
“We could have put one of them on the bench for this game, but the way Damian is going at the momentwhat’s important for us is that he gets as much game time as possible. We made a decision to keep both Brandon Thomson and Kurt Coleman playing for the Supersport side, at least they’ll get sufficient game time, which will benefit us.”
One player who Fleck and everyone who looked forward to his Super Rugby bow would have liked to see more of was World Rugby Under-20 Championship Player of the Tournament Juarno Augustus. The 19-year-old loose forward put in the effort and contributed in the tackle department, but he didn’t get any opportunities to show off his ball-carrying prowess at Newlands.
“I feel for Augustus, we couldn’t build those phases where we would have liked to see him get his hands on the ball. We couldn’t get going from set-piece and that’s where we could bring him into the game. He was sort of in the wilderness a little bit, and you can’t really judge him on that.”