It left a scar, a mental scar that has become visible again ahead of the two teams’ meeting at Newlands this Saturday afternoon.
The significance of that defeat is not lost on anyone in the Stormers’ camp, as they would have been in a much stronger position had they managed to complete the job in Bloemfontein. They would have had sole possession of second place, and have more than just one hand on the South African Conference.
That’s why the Stormers have been talking about making amends for that performance, because they can’t afford another slip-up against this Cheetahs side, who will be without many of their big guns on Saturday.
Another shock defeat to the Cheetahs will again open the door for the Lions and the Bulls in the race for the South African Conference. So, the Stormers need to tiptoe past this banana skin.
“We were very disappointed about the way we played in Bloem. It wasn’t expected, because we had a good week leading up to the Cheetahs game,” backs coach Robbie Fleck said this week.
“We had a hard look at ourselves – we were too impatient and they capitalised on our mistakes – and we have improved since then.”
The Cheetahs have nothing to lose. It makes them a dangerous team who will chance their arm and play with freedom. They will also want to give their coach and Free State legend Naka Drotske a send-off to remember, as he will be overseeing the team for the last time on Saturday.
Drotske will also have a general on the field who knows all four corners of Newlands. In Joe Pietersen, the coach has a man who can burn the opposition with his accurate goal-kicking or his running game. But the burden of trying to spark this team on his own may be a lot to ask, especially because the Cheetahs don’t have Springboks Teboho Mohoje, Coenie Oosthuizen, Heinrich Brussow, Willie le Roux and Cornal Hendricks to call on this time.
Fleck says they won’t be swept up in all the emotion of the occasion. “From their side there might be a lot of emotion, but we are just focusing on getting our game right and keeping our team nice and calm.”
As Fleck mentioned, they lacked a bit of patience in Blomefontein on attack. But that has been the case throughout the season.
The Stormers seem to be better on the counter-attack, but against a side with a poor defensive record like the Cheetahs, you also have to make the play and try and make inroads from set-pieces, and finish off tries when you get into the red zone.
To expect the Cheetahs to come to Newlands and put one over the Stormers through pure emotion and relying on Pietersen for the odd moment of brilliance is, frankly, unrealistic. So this weekend the Stormers need finish the job, because the Cheetahs are there for the taking.
In the teams’ last seven meetings in Super Rugby in Cape Town, the Cheetahs have managed just one win – back in 2006 when they won 31-25. On Saturday evening that record should read: played eight, won one. Farewell or no farewell. - The Star
Original source: Stormers wary of Cheetahs