CAPE TOWN - The Stormers backline is certainly one of their finest assets. It has speed. It has guile. It has skill. It has players who can tackle. It is an exciting backline. And just imagine how great it would be to see all of that put to use against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday. In Christchurch, and in every other game they play.
I mean, just think how dangerous they could be if they could fire as a unit. In every game. The kind of personnel the Stormers have in the jerseys with the double digits (and the scrumhalf, of course) can wreak all sorts of havoc for their opposition. They can slice defences up. They can keep their opponents guessing when they have ball in hand. How amazing would it be to see that week in and week out?
Against the Waratahs in Sydney at the weekend, Stormers coach Robbie Fleck went with Dewaldt Duvenage and Damian Willemse as his halfback pairing, Raymond Rhule on the left wing, Damian de Allende and JJ Engelbrecht in midfield, Dillyn Leyds at right wing and SP Marais at fullback.
The backline was a bit of a shake-up from the previous game, in which Leyds started at the back while Marais was out with a toe injury, EW Viljoen was at 13 in the place of Engelbrecht, and Seabelo Senatla ran out at right wing with Rhule on the left.
It doesn’t really matter how the Cape franchise’s backline gets spiced up, it doesn’t matter whether Senatla and Rhule, Rhule and Leyds, Leyds and Senatla or whatever other possible wing duo find themselves next to the two touchlines. What does matter is how those players are used.
At the Allianz Stadium, the Stormers backline - or the Stormers as a whole - didn’t really pose a huge attacking threat. They were kind of predictable in Australia. And that’s a pity.
Sure, they did try to create opportunities and a number of times it just didn’t come off, but more creativity, launching different attacks from different areas, and creating more space for their dangermen or even just utilising them more would provide quite a spectacle for the rugby world.
Look at how threatening Senatla was at Newlands against the Jaguares when he got a little bit of space. And look at how good it looked when Leyds created play from the back and linked up with the Sevens superstar. Those two backs shined. And so did Willemse, and Viljoen also had a solid game. But we need to see more of that. Using their backline to their advantage needs to become a part of the Stormers’ DNA and not something that we get treated to once in a while.
We shouldn’t wait for those moments of individual brilliance, be it a sweet side-stepping sequence or an impressive break. Creating space, creating attacking opportunities, bringing the backs into the game and allowing them to do what we all know they can do is what we should see.
And it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Remember the Stormers’ season-opener in Cape Town? There were instances when the team took the ball through the hands to the wings out wide in a simple move. Simple, but effective. And I don’t think we saw enough of that being tried against the Australians.
In fact, I think that fixture was kind of a let-down in that regard. The Stormers obviously left a lot of points out at the Sydney Football Stadium and their attempts didn’t always work out. And one it’s sad to recall how almost ‘dull’ the Stormers’ work seemed after Willemse and his magical feet left the field.
And it shouldn’t be like that. Willemse is a superb attacking player, but the Stormers have so many other players, up front and in the backline especially, who can set the field alight if given the chance. And it would be great to see that happen against the defending champions.