CAPE TOWN - Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says he was happy with his team’s performance against the Cheetahs, although he believes their discipline and defence can be improved.
The Stormers scored six tries to the Cheetahs’ two in a tight battle at the Free State Stadium, and after a second-half revival by the Cheetahs, the Stormers were 33-34 down with six minutes to go before replacement loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe scored the last try.
As Fleck said in the week leading up to the clash, it is always tough playing in Bloemfontein, but you would be forgiven for having expected a bigger Stormers win against a side who had only mananged three wins in 13 games prior to this fixture.
The Stormers’ showed good shape and intent on attack, but it is the number of unforced errors they made and the lapses in defence at times that should be a focus as they prepare for the next match, against the Sunwolves.
“It’s always difficult to come and play here. I felt we played pretty well in that first half and certain stages in the second half were good, especially defensively,” said Fleck.
“We showed good character to win it, we were a point behind. The guys stuck it out at the end. A big ‘work-on’ for us is our discipline, that’s how we allowed the Cheetahs back into the game. But overall I’m pretty happy with the win.”
One performance Fleck can be particularly happy with was that of young flyhalf Damian Willemse. The 19-year-old single-handedly mastered a few attacking spells that should have proved exactly why he is so highly rated, while his general decision-making couldn’t be faulted either.
Although Willemse got his chance in the midst of a Stormers injury crisis at No 10, his performance in Bloemfontein should be the silver lining for the Stormers coach.
And given what Fleck had to say about Willemse at the post-match press conference, he definitely is seeing that silver lining.
“He’s a young kid with a lot of talent. There were some brilliant touches by him today. Still one or two mistakes, but it’s to be expected from a 19-year-old. For him to perform at this level was a big ask and he certainly stepped up to it.”
Looking ahead to their second-last match before the play-offs, Fleck said it was pleasing to secure a win away at the weekend, but also added he was well aware of the dangers of becoming complacent as they prepare to face the Sunwolves.
“There’s a lot we can take from this game. We can still work on our defence - we let in a few soft tries - and certainly our discipline,” he said.
“If we want to go further in this competition, we need to sort that out. We don’t want to dig too deep and focus on things that are not really going to affect us too much. We just want to work on the things we need to get right.”
“You can’t fault character, that’s something you need to go further in this competition. We needed to win this one, an away win, we haven’t really been able to do this year. So there’s certain things we can keep working on.”
And when asked if he was going to miss playing in Bloemfontein should the Cheetahs get axed from Super Rugby, Fleck said: “My heart rate certainly won’t miss it, it’s tough. We always know what it’s like playing here. It’s always exciting and it’s always tough. The Cheetahs brought out the best in us at times. If they are out, we wish them the best for next year.”
Fleck also said he was looking forward to receiving a personnel boost for their Round 16 match, with Boks Damian de Allende and Siya Kolisi set to make their return to the squad, while he added that fullback SP Marais was going to have scans done on his knee after going off in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, flanker Rynhardt Elstadt has been suspended for one week after receiving a red card in the 80th minute of the clash against the Cheetahs.
During the incident, Elstadt attempted to strike Henco Venter, who was also given red and a one-week ban for elbowing Elstadt in the face.