Robbie Fleck, coach of the Stormers, during at training session at Newlands. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN - Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says he’s pleased with how his team “never stopped fighting” in their 52-31 Super Rugby thrashing at the hands of the Lions at the weekend.

The red-hot Lions made a big statement at Ellis Park on Saturday - not only did they return to winning ways, but they did so in a huge way... extending their winning record against South African teams and moving to the top of the overall standings.

While Madosh Tambwe stole the show early on with his first-quarter hat-trick (and a fourth one later in the game), he wasn’t the Lions’ only standout player in Johannesburg - Ruan Combrinck’s comeback performance was stunning, Elton Jantjies controlled the game well and his tactical performance was tops, and Malcolm Marx was again a big, constant pain for the opposition.

Apart from the individual performances, the Lions’ breakdown work was also massive, their attack was on fire and they also did their part on defence.

In the last quarter, the Stormers scored two tries through Damian Willemse and Paul de Wet. And Fleck praised their efforts.

“There’s no doubt we were beaten by a better team. The Lions played really well. Credit to my guys, they never stopped fighting. There were opportunities that we didn’t convert, but we were well beaten by a better team,” Fleck said.

“The Lions were outstanding at the breakdowns. They slowed our ball down, but when we retained possession and held onto the ball we looked fairly decent. I guess that’s a work on, last week was the same thing... we were beaten at the breakdown by the Bulls.

"There are positives for us. When we retained possession we looked good. Credit to the Lions as well, they didn’t stop defending at the end there. They were very good.”

Fleck also said that they can still “catch up with the Lions” in the SA Super Rugby conference following their disappointment. The Stormers went into the round eight match hunting their first away win of the season, but they didn’t get that. 

In fact, they failed to bag any points for the second week in a row, after suffering a 33-23 loss to the Bulls at Loftus last week. That means that the Stormers remain on 13 points, while the Lions have returned to the top spot in the competition after their eight-try win at home.

The Stormers have now won only three of their eight games in 2018. And before they return to Newlands for a series of home games, they will meet the Sharks in Durban following their bye this week.

Despite those results, Fleck is confident that they are “by no means out of it”.

“I think we can still catch up with them. They’ve got a tough tour ahead of them (to Australasia), but the way they played they can look forward to that tour. By no means are we out of it. We still have eight games to go, so we can catch up,” Fleck said following the match.

The Stormers’ bye will certainly provide a good break for them to recuperate after a tough first half of the season. And two areas Fleck said they need to improve on is their defence and breakdown work.

“We need to be better defensively, we can’t be leaking eight tries. Last week we also gave away a couple of soft tries. So that’s definitely something we need to work on,” he said.

“Our breakdown also needs to be better. But we can definitely draw a lot of positives from the first round. We’re not where we want to be in terms of the log, but we just have to be positive.”

Cape Argus

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