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Stormers must stick to their attacking game plan

Super Rugby
CAPE TOWN - A win is a win. And sometimes in sport you should do whatever it takes to get a win.

That sentiment is the main reason why I’m struggling to decide whether I should applaud the Stormers for cleverly varying their attacking game with a forward approach to stay in the game against the Sunwolves, or whether the disappointment I felt on Saturday because they reverted back to that kind of play should persist.

It’s a tough one. And the way in which they went about the game makes it even tougher.

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Stormers skipper Siya Kolisi runs at the Sunwolves in Saturday's match in Singapore. Photo: EPA/Wallace Woon

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck has spoken a lot about progressing their attacking game, and they’ve certainly made some good progress in that regard.

You could see it in their season-opening win against the Bulls at Newlands, and it also showed against the Jaguares and the Kings.

It was always going to be tough against the Sunwolves, a team that play the kind of game that the Stormers are working towards. A team that plays that kind of game consistently.

And the reason why I wrote that the way the Stormers went about that game on Saturday makes it even tougher to decide whether to praise them or be frustrated by it, is because of how they played throughout the game.

Yes, there was that “disappointing” return to a game that was played almost exclusively by their forwards at certain stages, but there were also some beautiful attacking touches and intent by Fleck’s team.

I mean, just think back to that first Stormers try, that beautiful team try that started all the way back in Stormers 22.

Fullback Dillyn Leyds broke through in their red zone and produced a spectacular run, before offloading from the ground to Dewaldt Duvenage, who gave an amazing backflip pass to JD Schickerling.

Flyhalf Robert du Preez also produced a superb inside pass, before EW Viljoen finished off the brilliant attacking move by scooping the ball up with on hand to score.

Now that move was impressive. And it was probably the best try in that game (and that’s a big statement because the Sunwolves scored some fantastic ones). And that is the kind of play the Stormers should be focused on.

But the ugly part stepped in when the Stormers were 24-10 down before half time, and the forwards took things into their own hands by setting up a series of pick-and-go’s before Rynhardt Elstadt dived over for the try.

They used a similar tactic when Wilco Louw and Bongi Mbonambi scored their tries in the second half - with the forwards taking control and using their physicality to get to the try line.

But like I wrote, there were also exciting moments in between.

Robert du Preez and Dewaldt Duvenage’s kicks in behind the Sunwolves, the way the ball went through the hands in the build-up to Duvenage’s try, and a few enterprising chip kicks by Du Preez, Duvenage and Kurt Coleman. All of that was good to see.

And regardless of how the Stormers managed to use that forward approach to get into the game or on the scoreboard, it won’t help them in the long run if they want to stick to a 15-man game.

They need to learn to perfect their attacking game. And their Round Five fixture against the Sunwolves was a good game to keep working at it.

Because it’s only going to get tougher from now on.

I don’t care how annoyed a lot of people must be getting with the constant New Zealand reference - things are gonna get real from here on in.

And when the Stormers go up against the Chiefs, the Crusaders or any of the Kiwi sides, that plan of using forward play and physical dominance to get the edge just isn’t going to work. Because even though the New Zealanders have been setting the attacking rugby trend for so long, you can’t overpower them physically either.

It was a quick fix against the Sunwolves, but it’s going to take much more in two weeks’ time when the Stormers host the Chiefs.

In fact, the Stormers won’t even have to wait that long to be challenged. It might even happen against the Cheetahs this week, a team who know all about attacking rugby.

So if the Stormers are really serious about their new approach, they’ll work at it whenever they get the chance. Not only when they are comfortably ahead in a game.

Cape Times

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