Battle for survival intensifies for Stormers as Bulls await
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CAPE TOWN – Stormers coach Robbie Fleck admits his team are “in a real fight” if they still harbour any ambitions of qualifying for the Super Rugby play-offs.
After producing a memorable performance in Melbourne, Fleck’s team returned to Cape Town and failed to secure the points against the Brumbies last Saturday.
The 19-17 defeat left the Stormers’ ambitions hanging by a thread with the Cape side last on the South African conference log. The mountain only gets steeper with the Bulls - the SA conference leaders and orchestraters of a 40-3 drubbing of the Stormers in the season opener - heading to the Newlands on Saturday for another bruising local derby.
“We said afterwards that we felt like we had taken one step forward (in Melbourne last week) and then two steps back. We have made it tough for ourselves. Now we are in a real fight,” Fleck said.
“We had a chance to move up to fifth on the (overall) log, which is amazing because of the way this conference is working. This one (Brumbies match) was one we had to win, in terms of keeping momentum and getting to that fourth/fifth place on the log.”
Full-time at DHL Newlands where the Brumbies have held out for a tense 19-17 win against the DHL Stormers. #STOvBRU
— DHL STORMERS (@THESTORMERS) April 20, 2019
The Stormers’ Achilles heel all season has been their inability to land the land the killer punch. They once again dominated all facets of the game against the Brumbies, besides on the scoreboard.
A team which has over 70% possession still needs to be able to create more than just a penalty try and pushover.
“We should have done more with the possession we commanded, and we should have executed better. Our conversion rate in their 22 should have been better,” admitted Fleck.
Stormers players react during the match against the Brumbies on Saturday. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
There is at least some positive news this week. Locks Eben Etzebeth and JD Schicklerling are expected to return to the starting line-up, especially with Cobus Wiese and Salmaan Moerat having left the field before halftime on Saturday.
This should allow Pieter-Steph du Toit to return to the side of the scrum, where he is expected to be joined by Siya Kolisi after the Bok captain played off the bench last Saturday.
There is still uncertainty about Jaco Coetzee and Juarno Augustus’ availability, but Sikhumbuzo Notshe should be in the frame for selection at No 8 after playing for Western Province last week.