Stormers try to find right formula


The bulk of the Stormers’ points last Saturday against the Bulls came at scrum time. And that has pretty much been the case in most of their matches so far this season, as their pack has rarely been shoved back.

However, backline coach Robbie Fleck says sometimes this has had a negative effect on their attacking game, as they haven’t quite figured the formula to use the ball properly from their scrum.

The Stormers haven’t always been rewarded when trying to keep the ball in a scrum that is going forward. And most of the time when the ball pops out it tends to be a bit untidy. This obviously gives the opposition team time to pounce on the loose ball. So instead of the opposition being on the back foot, it’s the Stormers who have to secure the possession with all their forwards still bound together.

But they are working on a formula to maximise the team’s attacking threat at scrum time, and getting that feel when to keep the ball in the scrum or get it out for big Damian de Allende to get over the advantage line or to execute a set-piece move.

Certainly, the Stormers have been looking to execute the latter in their last two matches. But a fumble from Kobus van Wyk when the Force’s defence parted like the Red Sea in front of him, and a forward pass from De Allende to fullback Cheslin Kolbe which resulted in Juan de Jongh’s try being disallowed against the Bulls, saw the Stormers butcher two great opportunities.

It’s become a bit of a trend for the Cape side on attack, though, as they do all the hard yards before squandering try-scoring opportunities with mistakes. The intent is definitely there, but the execution has let the Stormers down big time.

“Those errors are costing us, because there is a lot of hard work going into the creation of those moves,” Fleck said yesterday. “Those little errors are costing us five points, and we are letting ourselves down with the execution. We need to capitalise on those opportunities.

“With the six scrums we had against the Bulls, we earned four penalties. But it’s quite difficult to execute your moves from a scrum that is going forward. It’s quite unique for us; we have never had a dominant scrum like this before. We are still adjusting to that.

“From a scrumming point of view, we need to understand when we are looking for the penalty of whether we are looking for that solid base for our backs to strike from.”

The Stormers’ lineout, one of their key attacking weapons, was a bit of a shambles on Saturday against the Bulls, with a combination of the Pretoria side’s contesting and the Stormers’ lack of organisation letting them down.

So the backs couldn’t really get a proper platform to strike from that set piece. But the team did have a lot of opportunity in the first half to strike from general play. But again, handling errors and mistakes at the breakdown let them down. And one of those mistakes in the second half led to Bjorn Basson’s brilliant breakout try after Francois Hougaard started a counter attack in his own 22.

“In terms of our unstructured play, we tend to lack a bit of patience. We have been able to build a number of phases and quite easily get in behind the opposition. But in the red zone, we tend to be impatient and tend to force things,” Fleck said.

“We need to settle things down and make better decisions as a team. It’s something we are working hard on. We are really excited about our attack. The key is not to turn over possession.”

Keeping possession and not turning over the ball over is going to important for the Stormers this weekend when they play the unpredictable Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

The Cheetahs showed against the Lions that they can score tries from all areas of the park, and they tend to feast on the counter with dangerous players like Joe Pietersen and Springbok wing Cornal Hendricks.

“It’s a different challenge this weekend,” Fleck said.

“Against the Bulls you pretty much know what they are going to come up with and you can plan accordingly. But the Cheetahs always have a trick up their sleeves.

“We really need to be aware of our turnover count. The Bulls hit us with the one turnover at the weekend and they scored a really good try. The Cheetahs are a team that wait to pounce on your errors. Last year, they scored a long-range try when we were had the ascendancy.” - Cape Times

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