Super Rugby

Stormers: It's 'pain for gain'

Robbie Fleck (Supplied)
Robbie Fleck (Supplied)

Cape Town - They're back from a tough New Zealand tour that saw them ship 24 tries in three matches and return with zero log points, but the Stormers are staying true to their cause and believe they are on a path. 

That was the clear message from coach Robbie Fleck at what was an open, honest and frank press briefing in Bellville on Monday. 

This Stormers group has started something, and they intend to finish it. 

"The Lions took five years to put their gameplans into place and people are expecting us to do it within three months, so we need to put things into a little bit of perspective," Fleck said. 

The Stormers, in looking to get to a place where they can take on the best in the competition, continue to place a large emphasis on their attacking capabilities. 

Ball-in-hand, offloading, the breakdown, decision-making ... these have all been areas of focus for Fleck and his charges this season and he knows that the success isn't going to come overnight. 

But, on tour, the Stormers were exposed defensively. 

You can have all of the attacking intent in the world, but if you are conceding eight tries a game it's going to be near-impossible to win. 

As a result, questions arose from back home about the effectiveness of defence coach Paul Treu as the Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes put the Stormers defence to the sword. 

"Obviously that's been the big talking point, but defence is not a stand-alone thing," Fleck said.

"Defence is coupled with what you're doing on attack, how many turnovers you do and where you do those turnovers.

"We're trying to introduce line speed into our system which is something these players have never done before. We're going to make mistakes, but if we can learn from these mistakes and put them into place then we're going to become a better team."

The Stormers have lost four matches in a row after winning their first six this season, and beating the Blues at Newlands on Saturday may be seen as imperative. 

Not for Fleck.

He is not putting pressure on his side in terms of results. Instead, he wants to see constant improvement in terms of this side growing together and fine-tuning their skill-sets and technical ability. 

That is the overall aim here: to keep improving and close the gap. 

It is for that reason that the former Springbok centre does not see the New Zealand tour as a failure.

"It was a tough tour for us and the results didn't go our way. There were heavy losses but as a group we certainly didn't lose faith in what we're doing and we certainly haven't lost confidence," he said.

"I haven't lost confidence in my coaching and what we're doing here and neither have the other coaches.

"We're excited about the path that we've chosen and we're not going to veer too far from it. There were some good lessons learnt.

"If we come away from that tour having learnt nothing then it's a really tough tour to accept, but if we come back a better team and learn from the experience and become technically and tactically a better side, then it was a well-wroth tour."

Fleck referred to the tour as "short-term pain for long-term gain" and added that at no point did he consider changing tactics to limit the damage. 

"I think if we had reverted back to a kicking and mauling game then we certainly wouldn't have come out a better side," he said.

"We were definitely beaten by better teams on that trip. In our last four games we've probably played the four best sides in the competition, and three of them have been away. That does put things into perspective.

"Out of all the teams in the competition, we're the only team to have beaten a New Zealand team so far."

That is true. 

The Stormers' 34-26 win over the Chiefs at Newlands back on April 8 is the only time a non-New Zealand team has beaten New Zealand opposition. 

But, it was also the last time the Stormers won. 

Against the Blues this Friday they will hope to rediscover some of the magic they found that night. 

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