Robbie Fleck says the reasons are twofold: the Free Staters know how to bob and weave, and the Stormers keep forgetting that, despite being perennial punchbags, the Cheetahs never throw in the towel.
“They’re a very different challenge for us than the Bulls,” the Stormers attack coach said. “With the Bulls, you know what’s coming your way and you can prepare accordingly, but the Cheetahs always have a trick up their sleeves.
“They vary their game, they take you on out wide and also up front, and they’ve got a decent kicking game, especially contestable kicks. In the past, we’ve tended to let them back into the game through soft moments and that’s when the Cheetahs pounce on your errors.
“Last year they scored a long-range try with (winger) Cornal Hendricks, and it was the same in the Currie Cup – they weren’t in the game until we made an error to let them back in.”
Hendricks roasted diminutive Stormers rookie Devon Williams to score one of five Cheetahs tries in that match as the hosts came away with a 35-22 victory.
That margin far exceeds anything the Stormers have managed to muster in Bloemfontein – in six encounters at the Free State Stadium since 2007, the Stormers have won three times with an overall points-difference of +4.
“We need to stick to the plan,” added Fleck. “We always tend to let them back into the game through soft moments, so we really need to be aware of our turnover count.”
The Stormers will struggle to control their turnover count for as long as they persist with a ball-hogging attack.
Duane Vermeulen had to produce a moment of magic to rescue them from surrendering a 12-3 half-time lead in the weekend’s 15-13 win against the Bulls at Newlands. The Stormers played all the rugby and the resultant errors meant that the Bulls never fell out of striking distance.
The Highveld heavies scored the only try, a long-range counter-strike capped off by winger Bjorn Basson, when Stormers No 9 Nic Groom coughed up the ball trying to pass out of a tackle. That was one of a season-high 17 unforced errors generated by a 120-carries performance.
Nobody has made more runs this season (1 223) than the last-placed Western Force. They average one error for every 10.6 carries. The log-leading Hurricanes cough the ball up once, on average, in every 9.9 runs, while the Stormers’ carries-per-error rate is 8.8.
The Stormers are slightly below average in this department, but even the table-toppers cannot attack without fumbling, which perhaps explains why the Hurricanes have made fewer carries than eight of the teams below them on the standings.
“We do want to keep ball in hand,” Fleck said, “but we have to limit our errors.
“A team like the Cheetahs do well with turnover possession so we will have to be good with the execution of our plan, and keep putting them under pressure.”
The one advantage of a run-heavy plan that shies away from kicking for touch, is that it will limit the Cheetahs’ opportunities to launch strikes from the lineout.
“Their set-piece attack is pretty good, more specifically, their maul,” added the Stormers attack coach.
“They have scored some turnover tries this season, (fullback) Joe Pietersen was deadly from the back for them against the Lions, and they are dangerous there. But the build-up to that is that a lot of their points have come from the maul.
“It’s devastating and it’s a major attacking platform for them, which is why they want to play in your half and force lineouts.” - Cape Argus
Original source: Stormers ‘can’t have soft moments’