CAPE TOWN - “Getting a hiding isn’t a bad thing, as long as you learn from it.” That is the view of Stormers assistant coach Paul Feeney, and the skills boss believes the Stormers definitely learnt a lesson or two on their overseas tour.
The Stormers, who suffered three heavy defeats to the Crusaders, the Highlanders and the Hurricanes on tour, looked better at Newlands against the Blues on Friday. And it was their defence, an area that was a huge talking point after the tour, that showed the greatest improvement.
Head coach Robbie Fleck has previously said the team were trying to bring line speed into their defensive system, and against Tana Umaga’s side, one could see they have definitely made some progress in that regard. And although some players’ speed on defence looked better than others', collectively, the team did look improved in this area.
And Feeney praised defence coach Paul Treu for his contribution to the team’s improved resistance.
“We had to cope with line speed and at times our skills did struggle, but as we’ve said all alongwe know where we’re at and what changes we need to make. One is a mindset change on how to play the game and the other is a technical aspect,” Feeney said.
“We talked about the Blues with all their big ball-carriers, how many of those big ball-carriers made an impact in the game last weekend? Did Sonny Bill Williams make a great impact? Rieko Ioane? Goerge Moala? Melani Nanai? Akira Ioane? You wouldn’t even know some of those guys played.
"Augustine Pulu, did he even make a break? I think that speaks volumes of what we did on defence this weekend. So I think kudos to what Paul Treu has done and how hard the team worked,” Feeney said.
Addressing the Stormers’ new approach, the former Blues skills coach said the Stormers coaching staff are well aware of the fact that change won’t happen overnight, but he lauded the team for having already beaten New Zealand opposition in the Chiefs and the Blues.
“Getting a hiding isn’t a bad thing, as long as you learn from it. We can play conservatively and kick for territory more and play to lose by 10 points, but where are you getting? What a negative mindset.”
“We’ve changed our mindset and we’re not playing to lose – like Robbie Fleck said – short term pain for long term gain. Let’s be realistic, we’ve only just started to change, and we know it’ll take two to three years. But we’re also proud of the fact we’re the only side outside of New Zealand that has beaten a New Zealand side this year. No one else has done it, and we’ve beaten two.”
And Treu agreed.
The Stormers defence coach said that bringing line speed into their system will help benefit the team greatly, in that securing turnovers and, ultimately, scoring from those turnovers will do much good for the players’ confidence.
“We’re probably still going to make mistakes this weekend, but I don’t think we can go back to making 250 tackles and not making any turnovers or not applying any pressure. And this is something we as a coaching staff keep driving, and there is buying in from the players,” Treu said.
“I think when you make turnovers and you score from those turnovers that’s going to give the team confidence. We don’t want our players to have a fear of failure or fear of making mistakes, we want them to just go out there and try and get over the line and apply as much pressure on their attack and take their space away.”
Meanwhile, the Stormers have been boosted by the return of flyhalf Kurt Coleman, who has recovered from the ankle injury he picked up during training while on tour in New Zealand.
Coleman’s availability is great news for the Stormers, who ran low on flyhalf options against the Blues, with Robert du Preez having torn his pectoral muscle against the Hurricanes.
And although it will be a tough decision to choose between Coleman, a natural flyhalf, and Dillyn Leyds, a versatile back who stood in at No 10 at the weekend, Feeney said that having a bit more depth at flyhalf makes this dilemma a positive one.
“Kurt’s back from injury, which is great for us. It’s a good dilemma to have – do we start him even though he hasn’t played for three weeks, or do we keep Dillyn,who we played against the Hurricanes with and we beat the Blues with and we went alright?”