CAPE TOWN – Why are the Stormers struggling away?
At the weekend, Robbie Fleck’s team crashed to yet another defeat (33-23), this time to their old foes, the Bulls.
It was a game the Stormers certainly didn’t deserve to win, and their most telling shortcomings were the inability of their pack to front up to the Bulls’ forwards, and their discipline, which obviously didn’t do anything to help make their Saturday at Loftus a pleasant one.
Their Round Seven disappointment was their fourth loss away - giving them a zero-out-of-four success rate on the road this season.
While injuries haven’t been kind to the Stormers and certainly could have impacted their continuity and preparation, they could easily have been seen as the favourites ahead of their trip to Pretoria seeing that they came off good wins against the Blues and the Reds, while the Bulls - who are a team in transition under John Mitchell - lost four in a row prior to their meeting with the Stormers.
On tour to Australasia, the Stormers’ tour-opener against the Waratahs was obviously their first chance to show their away mettle in 2018. And although on paper that defeat might not have been enough to spread panic across the Western Cape.
But the fact it was against a Waratahs side whose performance couldn’t be described as ‘on form’ was enough to raise concerns over the Stormers’ form - their away form in particular.
After the Sydney shock, losses to the Crusaders and the Highlanders followed. And then this one against the Bulls.
So there’s clearly something lacking, something preventing the Stormers from being good enough away. And it’s something they'd better fix soon, because it’s certainly not going to get easier against the Lions and the Sharks.
And following their match at Loftus, Fleck admitted their away form is becoming a concern.
“The next three weeks, in terms of our draw, is pretty tough. It will be our eighth game without a bye so we are scraping the barrel in terms of the load on the players,” he said.
“Lions and the Sharks away after our bye, so really important games. It is our away form at the moment that is hurting us. To walk away from this game without a bonus point is pretty tough because we had numerous opportunities, but it wasn’t to be.”
“We showed a good fightback. I thought it would be better in the second half but it was the same disease as in the first - we couldn’t get any rhythm on attack and made mistakes. It’s not a game we’re going to look too deep into, we’re going to move on.”
“Home games are non-negotiables and you need to win the games against the teams in your group. We came here to win but it wasn’t good enough. We’ll move on quickly from this then focus on the Lions.”
Another ‘disease’ that the Stormers seem to suffer from is not being able to perform for the full 80 and not capitalising on chances in the attack zone. Both were evident against the Jaguares, on tour and to a lesser extent against the Reds.
The Stormers need to find out why they can’t get the desired results away, and they need to do so soon.
Because if they can’t pull through against the Bulls, who also had disruptions to their team sheet, even after two confidence-boosting wins over the Blues and the Reds, things could get real ugly against the Lions.