While the Cape side have adopted a much more attacking mindset in a new era under Fleck in 2016, their execution and creativity has let them down as the opposition have adopted rush-defence tactics to close down their space.
This has resulted in the Stormers getting caught behind the advantage line, and it was certainly evident in the 18-13 defeat to the Sharks last weekend.
Despite enjoying more territory and possession than the Durban outfit, the Stormers were unable to take full advantage as they scored just one try - by Leolin Zas after Cheslin Kolbe’s chip into space - and were “smothered” out of the game by an all-encompassing Sharks defence.
While it is encouraging to see the Stormers trying to improve their attack, they need to add greater variety to their game than just shovelling the ball from side to side in the hope of their wings breaking the line out wide.
That is why it is crucial that chief playmaker Kurt Coleman - along with Kolbe and Dillyn Leyds - are the main decision-makers on attack if they hope to topple an outstanding Brumbies unit well versed in the fine art of creative rugby by one of the modern-day geniuses, coach Stephen Larkham.
According to the Vodacom Stats App, Coleman made 33 passes and had six carries against the Sharks, with No 8 Burger making 19 passes and 15 carries.
Kolbe (9 carries, 6 passes) and Leyds (5 carries, 5 passes) had significantly fewer touches of the ball than Burger, and perhaps that is where the Stormers’ problems lie on attack.
Fleck has said throughout the season that he has given Kolbe and Leyds licence to roam around the field and pop up in the flyhalf channel to assist Coleman and provide more options, but instead it’s been Burger fulfilling that role. And that cannot be right.
The veteran Springbok loose forward is a tireless competitor who gets stuck in with ball-in-hand and tackles like a demon, but he should not be the man entrusted by the Stormers to unlock Super Rugby defences.
Coleman needs to take charge of that space and command it like Dan Carter used to do for the All Blacks - even when there wasn’t much on, Carter would make the decision to pass to a forward instead of a flank or lock being the first receiver.
And Coleman must be backed up by Kolbe and Leyds to make those decisions, and not Burger. The forwards have been somewhat guilty of not hitting enough rucks, as scrumhalf Jano Vermaak has been pulled in and the ball disrupted far too often.
Coleman has also come in for some criticism for his clearing kick that went straight to JP Pietersen, who broke the line to set up Joe Pietersen’s match-winning try.
But Fleck was philosophical about it. “It (that kick) happens in rugby - not everything’s perfect. You can blame the kick or you can blame the missed tackles (from Huw Jones and Nic Groom),” he said.
“Happy (with Coleman’s display), I think it was a good confidence-booster for him. He attacked the line nice and flat, there was a good connection between nine and 10 - our nine found him quite a few times, which is great.
“He brought some good width to our game as well, and he probably ran out of gas towards the end there. I was contemplating getting on Jean-Luc (du Plessis), but he (Coleman) had just kicked that crucial penalty to take it to 13-all, so you have to back your experienced players towards the end of a game to win it for you.”
But Fleck feels the key to a better attacking performance against the Brumbies is for the Stormers to look at “what’s happening in front of you”.
“If there are 14 guys in a defensive line, we’ve got to find space. I think that’s probably the biggest part of it,” the coach said.
“We did a lot of OT (off the top) balls from the lineout, which is pleasing as it brings variation to our game. But we only had that one maul in the second half where we destroyed them, and then there was a second one which they defended.
“We just need to bring that variation and balance. We can’t go from a completely mauling side to the other extreme where we are just OT-ing everything and trying to strike on everything. If the space is there, then take it - whether that’s through passing, running or kicking into space. We can be smarter in terms of unlocking that space.”
While much has been said - and rightly so - about the threat David Pocock and Scott Fardy will pose at the breakdowns on Saturday (7.15pm kickoff), Stormers loose forward Nizaam Carr believes that his team have the tools to avenge last year’s playoff qualifier defeat.
“The Brumbies also have a solid defence, and I think a lot of teams are rushing on us so that there’s less space to do your thing. What is going to be important for us is just to have more depth. Just be patient - things will happen. But we need to do the dirty work first and set up your phases,” he said.
“Space will come - your magic, the magician things will come. We’ve got Dillyn out there, Chessie out there, also Juan de Jongh. Those things will happen and they will break the line if we show patience on the ball. The important thing for us is to hold on to the ball and not lose it.”
Original source: ‘Stormers must be smarter’