The Stormers' famed physical and accurate defence has resurfaced but they need to add a cutting edge on attack to make them championship material, writes RYAN VREDE.
The Stormers, in comprehensively beating the Springbok-laden Sharks at Newlands, were defensively excellent. They blunted the visitors' primary strike runners at the gainline, contested the breakdown rabidly and forced a slow recycle for much of the contest. The Sharks never found any consistent attacking momentum and consequently became more expansive and disjointed as the match wore on. This played to the Stormers' defensive strength and the home side capitalised to great effect.
That defensive solidity, if consistently replicated, will take them far in the tournament, as it did in 2010 and 2012. Certainly it would be remiss not to credit their set-phase work as being a significant contributor to their success, but the pressure they create through their defensive work is undoubtedly the root of their success.
That defensive effort restricted a Sharks team overflowing with attacking talent to just one, scrappy converted try and two penalties, the latter indicating that not only are they accurate defensively but also disciplined in that facet of play. In four matches their tryline has been breached on just four occasions, an impressive record even at this early stage.
They will, however, have to improve their try-scoring record if they want to take their prospects from strong play-off contenders to title-contenders.
The Stormers' try-scoring ills have become chronic in recent years. In their aforementioned pomp they plastered over that deficiency with their exceptional defence, but were exposed in the knockout phase when they had to chase the game. That assertion is particularly true for the 2010 final against the Vodacom Bulls in Soweto and the 2012 semi-final against the Crusaders at Newlands.
The Sharks weren't able to exert the type of pressure that forced the Stormers out of their comfort zone. Indeed, none of their opponents have. However, in the coming weeks, they face a run of games against opposition who have the potential to examine their competency in this regard. Saturday's opponents, the Chiefs, have within their ranks, game-breakers of the highest calibre and come into the match fresh off a five-try to one, 40-10 thumping of the seven-time champion Crusaders.
Containing them will require a co-ordinated and sustained effort. Yet they are hardly mugs in the defensive stakes, having conceded one less try than the Stormers. The Cape side will come up against a collective every bit as physical and structured defensively as they are, and are likely to be required to front from an attacking perspective in a manner that goes beyond relying on penalties to tick the scoreboard over.
At times they've looked good and threatening with ball in hand when playing through multiple phases with their forwards, but their backline play has lacked punch and penetration. Hotsteppers like Cheslin Colbe and Juan de Jongh have been allowed limited time and space with the ball and have regularly been bossed in the tackle, while Demetri Catrakilis has a directive to play for territory. Statistically, young Dillyn Leyds and Damien de Allende are their best attacking backs. They need the rest of the division to support them in a bid to amplify the Stormers' attacking threat.
At present they are a very good team. To become a formidable one they have to find a way to grow their attacking game.
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