In a four-part analysis, JON CARDINELLI unpacks the improvements and shortcomings of the South African franchises.
The Stormers aren’t short of outstanding individual talent. Attack-minded players such as Herschel Jantjies and Dillyn Leyds have earned national call-ups on the back of some impressive showings in the recent Vodacom Super Rugby tournament.
Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Steven Kitshoff are among the best attacking forwards in South Africa. Any team would kill to have a sevens superstar like Seabelo Senatla in their ranks.
With this in mind, one has to ask how the Stormers (34) finished joint-last in the try-scoring category and only managed to accumulate one try-scoring bonus point over the course of their 16-game campaign.
The stats suggest that the Stormers have been even more one-dimensional than the defence-minded Sharks. The Cape side invested heavily in defence and in a crack kicking game. While they obtained some good results in these departments, they did not convert enough territory and scoring chances into tries.
SA TEAMS RANKING ATTACK
The stats show how few chances the Stormers created. No team made fewer linebreaks over the course of the conference phase.
Continuity on attack was a real problem. Only one of their tries came after seven or more phases, and a total of seven after four or more phases. Half of the Stormers’ total tries (17) came from first phase.
They may find consolation in the fact that they were among the least penalised teams in the tournament. They also ranked 10th for handling errors.
On the other hand, these stats may point to a lack of forcefulness and innovation.
Perhaps the Stormers should have pushed harder for an edge at the breakdowns and collisions. Perhaps they should have played with less fear on attack and taken a few more risks.
SA TEAMS RANKING DEFENCE, DISCIPLINE AND KICKING
All that said, one can understand why they were so conservative.
The 40-3 loss to the Bulls in the opening game of the campaign was a massive setback. All plans to play with freedom and embrace an attacking mindset made way for a relatively risk-free approach.
The off-field controversies, of course, didn’t help their cause.
The Stormers remained in the hunt for a playoff place until the final game of the regular season. Somewhat fittingly, they were knocked out by the Sharks in that fixture.
On that occasion, the Sharks outscored the Stormers by two tries to zero.
That loss saw the Stormers finishing last in the South African conference for the second straight season, and 10th in the overall standings.
They will need to strike a better balance between kicking and attack in 2020 if they are to push for a home playoff.
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