CAPE TOWN - Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says it’s their decision-making that let them down in their close 28-20 win over the Jaguares at Newlands on Saturday.
In the first Super Rugby game of the 2018 season, the Stormers struggled to put away a Jaguares side that was far from on-from. At one stage they were 22-6 ahead and seemed set to win the game comfortably - but that early second-half lead diminished to a 25-20 one 15 minutes from full-time.
While the first half was a very scrappy one by the hosts as their impatience with ball in hand and rushed play saw them ruin a number of scoring opportunities, they looked dominant and a loss, or that close a contest, didn’t seem like a possibility. It was their second half performance that gave the visitors more than enough gaps to get into the game.
And while Fleck believes that their “conditioning was good”, he said that along with poor decision-making, rustiness also played a part in their flawed performance.
“We had so many chances in that first half, our finishing let us down,” Fleck said.
“We should have won the game in the second half - we scored a very good try from the kick-off. We had put good plans in place for the kick-offs and we got good reward. I thought we were just going to kick on from there, we felt our conditioning was good. Our decision-making let us down and that let them back into the game.”
“There’s a lot of rustiness within the group, which is probably to be expected with the number of injuries and changes we’ve had to make over the last couple of weeks. I guess only having two pre-season games probably affected us as well. Not only our finishing but also our decision-making...we were looking for balls on the inside instead of trying to play a player on the outside.”
A sloppy third quarter which saw a yellow card to Ramone Samuels - who started in the place of Bongi Mbonambi as he was withdrawn from the game after his appendix burst on Friday - 15 minutes from full time put the Stormers under heavy pressure. Inside centre Damian de Allende was forced to stand in at flank as they as they tried to cope with huge pressure during a series of defensive scrums towards the end of the battle.
And after a penalty try to the Jaguares in Samuels’ absence (the score was 25-20 at this stage), the Stormers managed to get out of trouble, and a powerful scrummaging effort by replacement prop JC Janse van Rensburg played a key role.
Fleck praised his team for the “character” they showed at the end: “I think the ideal assessment of the game was that we showed great character at the end. We had to fight hard and we had to defend incredibly well. They got a lot of energy out of getting the penalty try and we were under the pump ... we were a man down.”
“(It was) amazing character that we showed at those last two scrums, getting two penalties in a row. And massive defence to hold then out. That was probably a coaching error, we should have put him (De Allende there earlier). After the second penalty we probably should have put Damian there, but we learn our lessons. It was unbelievable scrummaging from JC Janse van Rensburg, he won us two penalties
Regarding Mbonambi’s lay-off period and Dean Muir - who came on for Samuels - Fleck said: “Dean Muir had a very good pre-season and it was tough not to include him in our squad. He works incredibly hard and when he got selected the boys were chuffed for him because he deserves it. He carried well and defended well.”
The Stormers will face the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday, before traveling to New Zealand where they will meet the Crusaders and the Highlanders.