CAPE TOWN - If you drop your intensity in Super Rugby for just one week, chances are you are going to be caught out big-time.
The Stormers found that out the hard way at Newlands on Saturday when they were outmuscled by a ferociously committed Lions team, who seemed intent on proving they are still kings of the South African jungle.
Although there were bright spots for the Stormers in their 29-16 defeat, they just didn’t have quite the same fire and zip they had in their memorable victory over the Chiefs. It looked like that game had taken a lot of out of them, while the Lions, fresh from the bye, clattered into their Cape opponents from the start.
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck seemed to acknowledge that dip in intensity at Saturday night’s press conference.
“I’m obviously disappointed. What can you saywe were outplayed on the day.
“We were probably a little bit flat compared to the tempo and intensity we played with last week,” Fleck said.
The Stormers had better rediscover that intensity quickly, as they face three high-quality teams on their tour of New Zealand - the Crusaders, the Highlanders and the Hurricanes.
Due to the vagaries of the competition, the Stormers last year escaped New Zealand opponents in the round robin phase, only to be smacked in the face by the Chiefs.
But Fleck was upbeat about the tour. “Now we’ve got to look forward to New Zealand, which is not going to be easy. That was a loss and it probably was going to come at some stage. We take this one on the chin and we move on.”
“We’re looking forward to playing against an unbeaten team.
“The most important thing is that we take the learning from this game and we get back on the horse and we get positive for next week.”
Against the Lions, the Stormers were outscored four tries to one, and the visitors dominated them at the scrums, while the Lions’ lineout work was also strong.
The Stormers, on the other hand, made a number of mistakes in the first half and were outmuscled by the Lions, and hooker Bongi Mbonambi also put his team under pressure a couple of times as he struggled to find his jumpers.
But the biggest weapon the Lions used to get the win at Newlands was their rock-solid defence - and they used it to keep the Stormers forwards from crashing through and scoring for almost a 15-minute period early in the second half.
“We struggled at set-piece, they didn’t give us many opportunities, they didn’t give us any, to be honest. They kept it nice and tight. They were good and we were poor,” Fleck added.
“We could have still turned the momentum around after half time, but again, credit to their defence. They kept us out and I think that was the crucial point.”
A crucial point that Fleck, pictured, also highlighted was consistency, and said the 2016 Super Rugby finalists got that right last year, as they built on their performances every week right until the Super Rugby final.
“It was a disappointing loss, but it’s part of our growth and we need to take it on the chin.”
“If you look at what the Lions did last yearthey backed it up week in and week out.
“And that was our challenge this week, to back up last week’s performance and we didn’t.”
Meanwhile, Fleck has included former Highlanders centre Shaun Treeby in his 27-man touring squad.
The New Zealander recently joined the Stormers set-up to boost Fleck’s thin midfield stocks, after Springboks Juan de Jongh, Damian de Allende and Scottish international Huw Jones were ruled out due to injury. Young loose forward Cobus Wiese, who missed out on the game against the Lions due to a shoulder injury, makes his way back into the squad, while scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage, who was rested at the weekend, also travelled to New Zealand.
Scrumhalf Godlen Masimla and loose forward Johan du Toit, who were on the bench against the Lions, didn’t make the touring squad.
Bjorn Basson, Nizaam Carr, Kurt Coleman, Jan de Klerk, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Dan du Plessis, Robert du Preez, Dewaldt Duvenage, Eben Etzebeth, JC Janse van Rensburg, Oli Kebble, Cheslin Kolbe, Siya Kolisi, Dan Kriel, Dillyn Leyds, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, SP Marais, Bongi Mbonambi, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Ramone Samuels, Shaun Treeby, Chris van Zyl, Alistair Vermaak, Jano Vermaak, EW Viljoen, Cobus Wiese.