CAPE TOWN – There’s not much point in moaning about the Stormers’ 2019 Super Rugby season.
Their 12-9 Newlands defeat to the Sharks at the weekend was Robbie Fleck’s last game in charge, with John Dobson the man to take over the 2020 campaign.
And after four years of stakeholders hoping - or saying - “this could be our year”, next season will hopefully be the year. A year of progress. A year of results. A year of actual positives. Following Saturday’s match - one which you can’t be blamed for angrily asking how the Stormers lost that game - two things were made clear.
One, there’s too much reliance on and excuses made of things just not going the Stormers’ way. And two, there’s an attitude of not wanting to be questioned for making certain decisions. An attitude of just not owning up.
During Saturday’s post-match press conference, Fleck was asked about the decision to go for posts instead of the corner when they were 6-5 up with four minutes to go.
“Are you really going to criticise me for going for the points,” was Fleck’s reaction.
The question posed to Fleck was a valid one. More than valid. Yet he didn’t seem to see it as such.
They were ahead, though it was just by a single point, and would have needed to convert three penalties to possibly be in the clear as two penalty kicks would have meant that the Sharks could still have scored a converted try, which would have taken the score to 12-all.
The Stormers got the three points to take a 9-5 lead, and the Sharks scored a try at the death to steal it.
That decision can be interpreted any which way. And whether it was the right or wrong one isn’t the point.
Point is - despite their nightmare injury situation, one that would be tough to deal with for any team - the Stormers never really looked set to make the semi-finals, nevermind be real title contenders.
Sun's out at DHL Newlands today, the DHL Stormers take on the Cell C Sharks at 15h05 with a play-off place on the line. Get down here so you don't miss out. Tickets available from Computicket. #iamastormer #thefaithful pic.twitter.com/v9fXQUFvT9— DHL STORMERS (@THESTORMERS) June 15, 2019
And that’s the problem.
How can a franchise with the infinite talent pool the Stormers boast find themselves in the same situation every year, for four years in a row?
“Fleck” would be the obvious answer to that question, but it goes deeper than that.
Sure, after four seasons and only two quarter-final appearances to show for it, he was a big part of it. But if that “the rub of the green just didn’t go our way” continues to be accepted or even tolerated, we can’t expect much change. And that applies to more than just the Stormers.
We need to prioritise winning. We need to ask questions when results aren’t delivered and we need to find a way to get to the answer.
“Inches” and “luck” will only take you so far.
And while Dobson could very well be the Stormers’ answer, a mindset change is needed, in coaches and those they have to answer to on Monday mornings.@WynonaLouw