CAPE TOWN - Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says that his team’s at times poor defence on their tour to New Zealand was “growing pains” that come with the team trying new things on defence.
Fleck stated that the Stormers were trying to incorporate line speed into their defensive system, and added that the poor decision-making that some players showed on defence was also something to work on ahead of their match against the Blues tonight (7pm kickoff).
“We don’t want to dig too deep in terms of our defence, we’re trying new things on defence, we’re trying to get some line speed in our defence and there are some poor decisions, there are some missed tackles, and for us our defence is – much like with our attack – growing pains at the moment,” Fleck said.
One of these “poor decisions” by the Stormers that Fleck mentioned included players rushing out of line and leaving gaps dangerously exposed for the Kiwis to do damage – which they did, a number of times.
But the fact that the Stormers are trying to bring line speed into their system is a great one, especially since they experienced first-hand how much pressure this defensive skill can put the opposition under. On tour, the Stormers struggled to deal with the Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes’ line speed, which saw them lose possession cruelly close to the try line as they struggled to hold onto the ball or take the best possible action in these high-pressure moments.
And despite the Stormers’ defensive woes that were increasingly exposed by the New Zealanders, Fleck said that reverting back to the defensive ways of old was not an option, while he also added that they’ve put in a lot of work in that area ahead of their round 13 clash.
“We certainly can’t go back to the old style of defence where we were just drifting and looking to make doubles. If you look at all New Zealand teams they’re all employing a line speed tactic and we struggled against that on tour,” he said.
“Defence is not a stand-alone thing. The turnovers have certainly contributed, I’m not saying our defence has been perfect, there’s certain things that we have to work on. And it certainly has been a big focus for us in the last three weeks.
“It’s a massive work on for us, but if we can come back a better attacking and defensive unit we’ll be a happy group.”
Meanwhile, skipper Siya Kolisi is confident that his team learnt enough on tour to make them a better team going forward.
“We were obviously hurting about what happened on tour. But after that last game we made the decision that it’s happened, and the most important thing is that we learnt something from it. And we did, we learnt a lot,” Kolisi said.
“When we were on tour we would be attacking, but then a soft moment would slip in and they’d score 80-metre tries.
“So we learnt that you’ve got to have patience. You can’t make mistakes anywhere on the field.
“When we got home we turned our attention to the Blues. And our main focus is finishing strong in these next two games.”
Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Dillyn Leyds, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi (captain), 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth (vice), 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble. Bench: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Damian de Allende
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi. Bench: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Michael Collins Referee: Jaco van Heerden. Kick-off: 7.00 pm