The Cape side produced their poorest display of the season at the Singapore National Stadium on Saturday and were fortunate to escape with a share of the spoils after Vincent Koch crashed over for a last-second try, which was converted by Brandon Thomson.
There were numerous handling errors, lack of organisation on attack and defence, and poor discipline at the breakdowns from the Stormers that gifted the Sunwolves a number of kickable penalties.
Flyhalf Tusi Pisi duly slotted four of those, but will rue the fact that he missed two goal-kicks that would’ve been the difference in the end.
This is a Sunwolves team that conceded 92 points to the Cheetahs just a month ago and lost 40-22 to the Force in Tokyo last week, and the match presented the Stormers with an opportunity to push for a bonus-point victory.
Instead, it was the Japanese outfit who were unlucky not to pull off a shock triumph. Fleck, though, was adamant that the Stormers were not complacent heading into the game.
“The week was pretty good, to be honest. I don’t think there was much complacency – we trained really well on Monday and Tuesday before we left, and unfortunately we didn’t train when we were here. But we still had a good captain’s meeting, and we went through a couple of plays,” the coach said via teleconference from Singapore on Sunday.
“We felt that the prep was good, but on the day, it wasn’t. We weren’t good, from a mental and tactical point of view, and physically, we were flat. We are not an arrogant team and not complacent by any means. We are a humble side and the guys work incredibly hard, and that’s it.
“It wasn’t what we are about. We did well to get the two points in the end, but we certainly didn’t deserve it. We are not happy and we just want to put this game to bed and move on.”
The Stormers were lethargic, with the constant presence of the forwards in the backline destroying any hope of the Cape side making headway on attack. Halfbacks Louis Schreuder and Jean-Luc du Plessis looked lost and failed to take charge as the forwards got in the way.
It was a far cry from the inventive display in a losing cause against the Waratahs a fortnight ago, and if it wasn’t for Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit – whom Fleck described as “unbelievable and outstanding” – there’s no way that the Stormers would’ve ended up with two log points.
“I don’t want to look too deep into it, but we were flat and there were just too many errors. Tactically, we got it wrong in the first half – the guys played too much rugby. We were too loose and lost all our shape and structure,” Fleck said.
“We should’ve played more of a territory battle. We had a dominant set-piece and we neutralised that in effect. The list is pretty long, and it’s a tough game to review. What we did in the second half was a little bit better, but still too many errors, which sort of stopped all form of continuity.
“I felt our nine and 10 could’ve controlled it a little bit better. We’ve been playing really good rugby, and had a good balance between forwards and backs, but that was certainly missing in this game. It was one of those games where we couldn’t connect as a team.”
But instead of taking out the big stick and dropping some of the misfiring players for next Saturday’s likely conference decider against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld (7.20pm kickoff), Fleck feels that the current players should be given an opportunity to redeem themselves.
The Stormers are on 31 points in Africa Conference 1, three ahead of the Bulls.
“It was a bad day at the office. Results-wise, to be honest, we’ve been playing really well. We’ve been unfortunate to lose to the Waratahs in the last minute, and we had the (Siya Kolisi) incident against the Sharks. But other than that, we’ve been playing good rugby and this was a bad day at the office,” he said.
“I don’t exactly have a huge squad to select from, so for me, it’s important that I back the guys in the squad and that we get back on track. We will be far better for it against the Bulls.”
Original source: ‘Just a bad day at office’ for Stormers