Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says his side cannot afford to be fearful when they face the Crusaders at Newlands on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
It cannot be a coincidence that in a press release backing the coaching staff, WP Rugby chief executive Paul Zacks made an analogy comparing the Stormers’ season with that of Liverpool football club in the same week they host the table-topping Crusaders.
Liverpool stunned football fans by coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win their two-legged Champions League semi-final against Spanish giants Barcelona 4-3 on aggregate after blanking their opponents at Anfield.
The Stormers face a similar challenge when they take on the Crusaders who, bar the Waratahs and Sharks, have swatted aside most teams in the competition and are coming off a one-sided bonus-point victory over the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus.
There is a question how the Stormers should best deal with the match. The Sharks were on the verge of a victory in Christchurch after playing a rather conservative game and opting to kick over any penalties within Curwin Bosch’s range. Unfortunately, they could not go the distance and had to walk away with a draw as the Crusaders scored a converted try on the hooter.
Fleck continued the analogy when speaking to the media on Thursday, saying his side have to emulate the way Liverpool approached the playoff and played without fear of what their opponents offered on attack.
‘The no-fear part of it has got to come into our game,’ Fleck said. ‘We certainly have to play a tactical game, but if you play with fear against a side like the Crusaders then you are not going to win.
‘We are playing against the best attacking side, but also the best defensive side at the moment. Our view is that if we want to beat them, we are going to have to outscore them in terms of tries. We have not scored as many as we would have wanted to this year, but that has to be the attitude. If we go into this match with a conservative mindset we won’t last too long.’
With the Stormers bottom of the South African conference, trailing by five points to the conference-leading Sharks, yet still able to catch them, Fleck said he was confident they could seal their place in the playoffs.
‘There are five games left and we have done the sums and discussed it with the players. We certainly are playing well enough to beat some of the best teams in the competition. This weekend will be a real test for us in terms of whether we can achieve something like that. I don’t think we are at that stage where we have to push any panic buttons. It is really about encouraging the players and getting the best plans in place.
‘This team are capable of winning five out of five, or four out of five to get us into the playoffs. We have got to believe that, and we do believe that. This will really be a Rubicon moment, testing ourselves against a quality outfit. If we can get a win against the best team in the competition, surely that would set us on the right track for the competition.’