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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Robbie Fleck © Gallo Images

Stormers need to tighten up

Those who saw the DHL Stormers beat the Vodacom Bulls 41-33 in their final Super Rugby league match in Pretoria at the weekend will not be surprised that coach Robbie Fleck is looking for his team to tighten up their game in the quarterfinal.

The Stormers host the Chiefs at Newlands on Saturday in a repeat of last year’s first game in the Finals Series. The Chiefs put 60 points past them 12 months ago but the Stormers should be more confident this time around after warming up for the clash with a good win over the old enemy in their own backyard.

The Stormers could have won more comfortably than they did, but let themselves down in some key areas, most notably defence, while the lineout failures remain one of the big imponderables about a Stormers team that features two Springbok locks and a Bok hooker. While there was overall ascendancy in the scrums, there were stages early in the game where that area should have been a concern too.

But the biggest problem area for the Stormers was the loose moments that let the Bulls in for their tries and enabled the Pretoria team to stay in a quick and exciting game that certainly would have given the Stormers good preparation in terms of the tempo they can expect in the quarterfinal.

“I think our biggest challenge is to learn to attack and defend at the same time,” said Fleck.

“Our set-piece play can get better and our structured play can get better. We were a bit loose at times and we will need to tighten up in the quarterfinal. But if we get a bit more confidence in the systems then we should be okay.”

Defensively, although they did concede too many tries, the Stormers did have passages in their game when their line-speed blunted the Bulls. They need to bring more of the same against the Chiefs, as they did in the league game which they won against the same Chiefs team in April. The key for the Stormers though is to stop producing in patches and to do it over the entire 80 minutes.

“I felt we could have done better defensively, but there were passages where we were dominant. We certainly put them under pressure and the Bulls were unable to get the continuity they were looking for. Our defensive effort forced them to play under pressure and that was what produced our tries.

“There were one or two individual mistakes that let us down, and a bit of looseness, but overall to go to Pretoria and scores six tries and get a win was a positive for us. The Bulls were always going to be up for it and they did a few good things, which shows they are also coming on in their game. We were looking for a physical confrontation from them, and we got that. I was pleased with the way we handled them when they came at us in the first 20 minutes.”

Fleck said that one of the objectives from the full dress rehearsal for next week’s quarterfinal was to get used to quick tempo rugby.

“Our whole plan was not to kick out and we tried to keep as much ball in play as possible and work in those dark spaces for long periods of time, which we achieved,” said the Stormers coach.

The Stormers also have the confidence of having beaten the Chiefs in the regular season, and in that sense they will be pleased to be facing the team from Hamilton in the first playoff game. Fleck appeared to be in a good space seven days out from his team’s most important date of the season.

“If we tighten up in a few areas I think it will be a well-contested game,” he said.

“Counter-attack has been a strength of ours this year, but in this game I also think we scored a few well-constructed tries from set-pieces. We had the ascendancy in the scrums, but our lineouts can get better.”


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