CAPE TOWN – Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says he’ll have to have another look at the “debatable” scrums following their 15-9 defeat to the Chiefs and a questionable refereeing performance by Mike Fraser.
The Stormers’ scrum has been strong this season, so seeing them dominated like that was an unusual sight.
The scrum wasn’t the only area that led to some questions.
Some of the Chiefs’ lineout throws looked sketchy, the ruck was an interesting event a couple of times, and the Chiefs’ blocking runs probably rivalled the scrums for the most controversial moments title.
And during the press conference following the game, Fleck chose to be rather tight-lipped about Fraser’s display.
“Their scrum has been good all year and we knew that,” Fleck said. “I will have to have a look at those scrums again.
“Certainly the one that led to the penalty try was a good one from them. But the ones before that were debatable.”
And while Fleck wasn’t sure where they lost the game, he was pleased with what they got right in the battle.
“I don’t quite know where we lost it. The energy was going both ways. We didn’t convert the few chances we had, and we also worked hard to turnover possession at one stage and gave it immediately back to them.
“That led to the penalties and scrums that ended in the penalty try. I will say that both defences were good today, and this was certainly our best defensive performance of the season.
“They got a lucky bounce for the first try, but you have to give them credit for their powerful scrum.
“I also have to recognise their defence that held up when we created chances as well.
“When we got in behind them, they got their line back intact quickly and were able to put us under pressure. It was a typical battle against the Chiefs.”
In terms of their playoff chances, Fleck is confident that they’re “still in it” despite falling to their seventh Super Rugby defeat this season.
The Stormers are now last in the South African conference and 11th on the overall log following the 15-9 loss, but Fleck is drawing some hope from the fact that their conference is so tight.
The Lions remain at the top of the South African conference, but they’re only seven points clear of the Jaguares, the Bulls and the Sharks – who are all on 24 – while the Stormers have 23.
The Lions and the Stormers have both played 12 games, though, so the Jaguares, Bulls and Sharks still have a game in hand.
All of the Stormers’ games since their troubling away results have been referred to as “must-wins”, but with only four games remaining, that description is even more applicable now if they want to keep their slim chances of making it into the playoffs alive.
“We have four games left and we’re still in it,” Fleck said after the frustrating tussle.
“For us, every game is a must-win, and we have to approach it in that way.
“We aren’t thinking about the Lions yet because we get on the plane on Sunday to prepare to beat the Sunwolves.
“There is a lot of rugby to be played, with New Zealand teams having to play each other, so a lot can still change.
“We will take our best team to Hong Kong because every game is a quarter-final, and there will be no other mindset but trying to win every game.”
An experienced 25-man Stormers squad left Cape Town on Sunday morning for their historic match against the Sunwolves in Hong Kong on Saturday, and the obvious omission is flyhalf Damian Willemse, who’ll join the Junior Boks for the World Rugby Under-20 Championship, which runs until June 17.
Jean-Luc du Plessis will take over the No 10 jersey in Willemse’s absence, and when asked about back-up for Du Plessis, Fleck said that Dillyn Leyds can also play there if needed.
The Stormers coach also said that he’s expecting a tough contest against the Sunwolves, who whipped the Reds 63-28 at the weekend.
“This is another first for the Stormers and something that all of the players and management are really looking forward to. Our matches against the Sunwolves in Singapore have been tough encounters, so we know that we are in for a real test once again,” he said.
Stormers Tour Squad
Nizaam Carr, Damian de Allende, Jan de Klerk, Paul de Wet, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Dewaldt Duvenage, JJ Engelbrecht, JC Janse van Rensburg, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi (captain), Dillyn Leyds, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, SP Marais, Scarra Ntubeni, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Raymond Rhule, Carlu Sadie, Ramone Samuels, Seabelo Senatla, Kobus van Dyk, Chris van Zyl, EW Viljoen, Cobus Wiese.