Stormers strike balance at last

The Stormers’ recent success against the Waratahs can be put down to an improved kicking and defensive performance. JON CARDINELLI reports.

There's more than one reason to smile if you’re a Stormers supporter. Last Saturday, the Cape side ended their three-game losing streak with a 32-18 win against the Waratahs in Sydney. They not only secured a much-needed victory, but a bonus point for scoring four tries.

While it was a patchy rather than polished performance, it was encouraging to see the Stormers returning to a more structured game plan. Coach Allister Coetzee said afterwards he was pleased with the improvements on defence and in the tactical kicking department.

Coetzee noted that the ‘massive’ defensive effort had created a number of counter-attacking opportunities. He said he was thrilled to see the players making use of those chances to score four tries.

Damian de Allende scored two, while Kobus van Wyk and Cheslin Kolbe picked up one apiece. While the individuals finished well, the collective deserves plaudits for working as one to force those turnovers.

The Stormers need to stick to this game plan in the coming weeks. It brought them success in the initial rounds of the 2015 tournament, where an inspired defensive showing earned them wins against the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, the Lions at Ellis Park, and the Blues and Sharks at home.

When they moved away from that defence-oriented strategy, they failed to get the desired results. An expansive approach was punished in the match against the Chiefs. The drop in physical standards, both on attack and defence, cost them dearly in the next game against the Highlanders. It was a lack of defensive grunt as well as an errant kicking game that saw them trailing the Hurricanes 25-3 in the first half of the clash in Wellington.

Coetzee said on Saturday he believes the Stormers are now heading in the right direction. It’s not that the Cape side has discovered anything new in terms of approach. It’s simply a case of getting back to where they were before things fell apart in the round five clash against the Chiefs.

The Stormers must continue to back their defensive game. They must continue to push their halfbacks to maintain a high standard of tactical kicking. And when those forces combine to present a counter-attacking chance, they must continue to back their exciting back three to finish.

Coetzee said the team will keep its feet on the ground after the big win in Sydney. One would hope the statement is more than a cliché. Overconfidence and straying from a proven formula has already cost the Stormers on three occasions this season.

The Stormers must look to secure victory first. And if their defence dominates to the degree it did against the Waratahs, there will be opportunities to counter-attack and bag the four-try bonus point.

A win in Perth this week is a must if they hope to stay on track for a play-off spot. The Stormers have a tough schedule in that they will be pitted against the Bulls in the first week after their Australasian tour. They will then play the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, followed by the Brumbies in Cape Town.

Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli