CAPE TOWN – Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says he hopes their home game against the Chiefs this Saturday is as much of a spectacle as their one against the Bulls was.
The Stormers produced a big performance against John Mitchell’s men in front of a lively crowd on Saturday, and the confidence that the 29-17 derby victory gave the Stormers will surely be needed against a wounded Chiefs side this weekend, after the Kiwis lost to the Jaguares on Friday.
The Stormers were of course under a lot of pressure after six away losses. And while the win over their rivals will surely have equipped the Cape side with confidence, the pressure is still there, and their chances of qualifying for the Super Rugby playoffs as one of the wildcard teams will depend on their results in the remaining games.
The Stormers are still fourth in the South African Conference and they’ve moved up to ninth on the combined log. So, needless to say, their match against the Chiefs this Saturday is going to be crucial.
And it’s a battle that Fleck said they’re looking forward to.
“We’re gonna face real quality opposition next week. They rested some players against the Jaguares and they lost, so they’ll be hurting and they’ll be fired up. They’re obviously targeting our game at Newlands, they’re sending their All Blacks back for the Sharks game afterwards,” Fleck said after the Bulls game.
“So it’s a massive game for us and we’re looking forward to it. Today’s game was a spectacle, and hopefully next week is going to be the same.”
The game had a lot of elements that resembled the Stormers’ 33-23 defeat to the Bulls at Loftus earlier this season. Only this time, the roles were reversed.
After being manhandled by the Bulls pack in that game, the Stormers forwards had the upper hand this time, and that was especially evident at the scrums, where Wilco Louw and Steven Kitshoff made it an even more pleasing afternoon for themselves with a big effort whenever they packed down.
During their first battle of the 2018 season in Pretoria, the Bulls also used the driving maul to score two tries against the Cape side, so the Stormers’ maul defence was always going to be important this time around. They aced that test, and their own maul was also solid.
Ultimately, the confidence-boosting win was also much needed to keep the Stormers’ chances (which seemed to be sinking disastrously quickly when they played away from home) of cracking into the top-eight spots alive.
“I thought our maul defence was exceptional. They (the Bulls) have a decent maul and they kept coming at us, but credit to our boys. We just kept on knocking them back. We really worked hard on that aspect during the week, credit to our pack and coaches for sorting that out,” Fleck said.
“We just have to keep winning and keep getting better. If we keep striving for that 80-minute performance, we can put other teams under pressure. We have had to fight incredibly hard over the past couple of weeks.”
“It hasn’t been ideal, but the team has shown a bit of character now and our game is starting to come together. The defence on our line at stages was outstanding. This one just meant a lot to the boys.”
The win over the Bulls was extra special for captain Siya Kolisi, who got the best present for his 100th Stormers appearance.
The Springbok loose forward - who left the field quite early in the second half with an ankle injury that’ll be assessed today - said that his wife and some former Stormers made it an even better day.
“Getting messages from guys like Schalk (Burger), Jean de Villiers, Andries Bekker and Bryan Habana, who have been in a similar situation, really meant a lot. They took me under their wing when I got here.”
“It’s unfortunate that Eben (Etzebeth) couldn’t play, but having Frans (Malherbe), Kitsy, Scarra (Ntubeni) and Nizaam (Carr), who I started out with, here was very special,” Kolisi said.
“My wife really made it special. For me, it is all about the team, but my wife has seen it as a big thing and organised my family to come down 40 people in a box from the Eastern Cape and then there were 70 people in the crowd for me and Scarra (who earned his 50th cap), it was ridiculous.”