CAPE TOWN – Considering all the trouble in the Newlands boardrooms over the past few weeks, the Stormers hapless performance in their Super Rugby opener at Loftus should almost have been expected.
There is no way any team - professional or not - can continue to operate in a bubble when their world is being torn to shreds around them. From corridor gossip to media reports, they simply cannot isolate themselves from the fact that everyone is not pulling in the same direction.
Full marks, though, to coach Robbie Fleck. He promised at the beginning of his fourth - and most likely final - season at the helm of the Stormers that there will be “no more excuses”. And he certainly wasn’t going to fall back on the off-field problems to justify his team’s limp performance.
“I am going to say no to that (off-field drama affecting the team) because we are a tight-knit group and we are not going to worry about what is happening off the field,” he said. “We can have a built-in excuse system for everything that is going on, but we are certainly not going to do that.
“It was an off-day but we will pick up the pieces and go back to work on Monday because the season is still long. We have to look after ourselves and focus on what we have to do.”
So, instead of sulking, the time is here now to pull on the big boy pants. And that means paying attention to the basic fundamentals of the game like stop throwing away your own line-out ball.
Not only does it surrender possession, but it loses valuable territory and the opportunity to launch an attack of your own. Fleck knows this, the players know it too, but yet it continues to happen.
It was frustrating at Cape Town Stadium two weeks ago too. You can’t play at this level without possession.
“We had no possession in the first half. The game was pretty much done at half-time. It was tough to come back from there,” he said.
“Probably the only positive was our scrum. I felt that we did have them under pressure, but certainly our line-out didn’t function. They contested the hell out of us. We couldn’t build any phases. If I look at the Bulls performance, every aspect they delivered.”
The Stormers will need to shape up quickly for another hefty challenges awaits them this week. The Lions, fresh off a convincing victory over the Jaguares in Argentina, travel to Cape Town this week and will be keen to inflict further misery.
“We have three derby matches in a row and two of them are away. We haven’t beaten the Lions in some time, but I know our boys will be up for it. This hurts, but we have some five-six coming back.
So, it’s about damage control and getting the guys up again,” Fleck said.@ZaahierAdams