Although the Stormers had lost just once in six previous games against the Rebels, even the most loyal supporter would’ve been hard-pressed to back Robbie Fleck’s men in Melbourne on Friday.
They are without a number of Springboks, and had lost all three tour games so far.
But the fact that they had to be greater than the sum of their parts to pull off a morale-boosting victory made all the difference in a 41-24 triumph at AAMI Park.
Their desperation was evident in their commitment in defence, while a bit of razzle-dazzle from Dillyn Leyds also got the attack going at times.
There were fewer handling errors compared to previous weeks, and the ‘history’ between Fleck and Rebels mentor Dave Wessels – they used to coach together at UCT – would’ve given the Capetonians extra motivation.
“Today things went our way and the passes stuck. It was an outstanding defensive performance,” Fleck told the Stormers website.
“We knew what the Rebels were capable of on attack, and we put them under pressure through our defence and our work-rate.
“The boys tackled for each other, they worked hard off the ball, and that created the opportunities for us. It was a good, clinical performance from us, so we are very happy.
“We put a huge emphasis on our defence this week. We knew (Will) Genia and (Quade) Cooper would be a threat, and their gameplan revolves around them. We knew we had to get off the line and put them under pressure.
“That is what created those opportunities on attack, and for the first time this tour, we converted.”
It was far from a perfect display, though, with flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis again struggling to get the backline going.
Josh Stander brought some stability when he came on at No 10 in the second half, while Leyds and Damian Willemse added some spark whenever they came in as a first receiver.
Rebels v Stormers I Super Rugby 2019 Rd 9 Highlights— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) April 12, 2019
Two tries from Ruhan Nel have helped @THESTORMERS collect a win on the road by accounting for the @MelbourneRebels in Melbourne #SUPERRUGBY #REBvSTO pic.twitter.com/RebJPGXhL5
But all Fleck and his team wanted was a win ahead of their return to Newlands next Saturday against the Brumbies (3.05pm kickoff).
“We have been threatening this entire tour to put in an 80-minute performance, which is what was required tonight,” the coach said.
“It is a massive win for us. We have been fighting this tour and threatening with our performances. We have been training well, but just didn’t get that win, but tonight it came, and that is massive for the boys.
“To get on that flight now knowing that we got a win on tour against probably the best Australian side is great.”@ashfakmohamed