The early rounds of the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby tournament confirmed that the Stormers are still searching for answers on attack, writes JON CARDINELLI.
We go through this every year. After being hyped up in the pre-season, the Stormers eventually suffer a series of setbacks either in the form of long-term injuries or significant defeats. There comes a point where the question is asked: why is the Cape side struggling to strike the necessary balance between attack and defence – the balance that separates the genuine contenders from the also-rans?
Let’s give credit where it’s due. The Stormers delivered some stirring defensive performances in the early rounds and, for a time, it appeared as if they were bent on emulating the Springbok team that used defence as a weapon at the 2019 World Cup.
As the season progressed, however, it became clear that the Sharks rather than the Stormers had the means to strike that sort of balance. The Stormers struggled to implement that gameplan to any telling success. Their shortcomings were highlighted in the losses against two of the tournament’s form teams, namely the Sharks and Blues.
Again, one needs to acknowledge the quality of their defence in the matches against the Hurricanes and Vodacom Bulls. The Stormers kept both of those teams scoreless. They conceded only seven points in the next home match against the Jaguares.
When the Super Rugby tournament was suspended after round seven – due to concerns around the coronavirus outbreak – the Stormers boasted the best defensive numbers in the competition. No side conceded fewer points (94) or tries (10). On average, the Stormers conceded the fewest linebreaks per game.
There were a few moments over the course of the campaign where the Stormers’ offensive defence did lead to scoring chances. Who could forget Herschel Jantjies picking off an intercept in the season opener against the Hurricanes? The Bok scrumhalf is becoming something of a specialist at punishing flat passes in those wider channels.
The attacking numbers, however, make for worrying reading. When the tournament was paused, the Stormers were ranked 10th in the 15-team competition for tries and points scored. Their struggle to create let alone convert scoring chances was highlighted by the fact they ranked 14th for clean breaks and 15th for run metres.
The stats also show how their kicking game has failed to function to any telling degree. The Stormers ranked 10th for kick metres after seven rounds.
Were the players on the verge of clicking as a unit before the tournament was put on hold? The forwards have been largely impressive, setting an excellent platform at the set pieces. For some reason the backs have not fired as a unit to the same degree.
It’s something to ponder during the enforced break. If the season does resume in the coming months, the Stormers will have to start playing with more balance and creating more scoring chances. Failure to do so will have them battling to qualify for the playoffs.
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