CAPE TOWN - Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says they’re “still in it” and working hard to get things right.
The Stormers’ defeat to the Sunwolves at the weekend was their eighth Super Rugby loss of the season, with seven of those disappointments coming away from home and one at Newlands.
Their latest defeat has added to the already piled-up pressure with regards to reaching the playoffs. And with three round-robin games remaining, Fleck is confident that they can put up a fight to produce an 80-minute performance - something the Stormers coach believes is one of the keys to getting his team firing again.
“When we do put an 80-minute performance together we’re a quality outfit,” he said. “We have underperformed at times this year. We know that and we’re working hard to get things right. At stages this year we’ve put some of the biggest teams under the pump, and when we do click not many teams can handle us.
"We’ve shown it in periods against the Crusaders away and we’ve showed it at home plenty of times. It’s just that we haven’t been able to put an 80-minute performance together and soft moments have been letting us down.”
The Stormers are at the bottom of the SA conference and 11th on the overall log, but Fleck isn’t focusing on the standings too much. The Stormers will meet the Lions at Newlands on Saturday, and Fleck wants his side to use the derby to show what they can do.
“The log is irrelevant to us, it’s about how we get our stuff right and play the brand of rugby that we want to play,” Fleck said. “The motivation in the squad is massive and we’re disappointed with where we are.
"But we’re still in it, and that’s not going to be our driving factor. Our driving factor is going to be the fact that we want to play our best rugby to the best of our ability and we want to fight. There’s lots of reasons why this season hasn’t gone right up until this stage, but it can still change.
“This is a damn good rugby team with some good players in this side. We’ll do whatever it takes to get back up there. This year’s not over yet for us, and we’re looking forward to showing what we can do.”
One way to make sure that the next game goes better is of course to assess what went wrong in the previous one, and according to Fleck, uncontrollable factors like the humidity and a few “penalisable offences” that should have gone their way influenced the game, while the chances they didn’t take contributed greatly to the outcome.
“I certainly think with them playing and training in Singapore and Tokyo in that heat makes them more accustomed to those conditions. That’s why I think they play the way they do tactically,” Fleck explained.
“These were extreme conditions and something that our boys weren’t accustomed to. Walking into the change-room at halftime, it literally looked like a warzone. The boys were in ice buckets and cooling towels. The conditions were (tough) for both sides, but I did feel that our boys struggled in those conditions.
“I felt that we both had the same mindset tactically and we executed it better in the first half, hence the lead that we got. We were feeding off their mistakes and we were playing a good tactical kicking game, we were outing them under pressure and we scored three good tries, we were defending well. It was a soft moment that led their little scrummy through the middle of the ruck, they got a lucky bounce and they got back into the game.”
The Stormers led 17-10 at halftime, and one factor that came back to haunt them after it reared its head a couple of times this season was a failure to look after the ball and missed opportunities.
“That first half could have been bigger, we certainly had our chances and I definitely feel that the conditions got to us in that second half. We didn’t move as quickly as we did in the first half. They were able to hold onto the ball better than what we could,” Fleck said.