CAPE TOWN – Robbie Fleck admits the Stormers victory “wasn’t pretty”, but was impressed the way his pack stood up to the Sharks at Jonsson’s Kings Park.
The Stormers left Durban with a 16-9 victory – their first away victory in almost two years – on the basis of some old-fashioned defence and solid work at the set-piece.
It is almost unthinkable that this is the same team that could barely win a line-out at Loftus a fortnight ago, as they not only controlled their own line-out ball, but also dominated the Sharks in this facet of play.
It would be unfair to heap all the praise on Eben Etzebeth for the turnaround, but the Springbok lock forward has been a colossal presence since his return to the Stormers line-up after an almost two-year absence and it may not be a coincidence that the Stormers failed to win away from home in his absence.
He certainly has a galvanising effect on the players around him for the Stormers scrum was once again a well-oiled machine and kept the Sharks under pressure for the duration of the match.
“I felt our pack played really well. Our set-piece was excellent. From our own line-outs, to contesting theirs, to scrums, we really put them under pressure. That was certainly part of the plan. They were gifting us those opportunities and credit to the boys for sticking to the plan. The pack played really well,” Fleck said.
Going forward, the Stormers will have to rely on more than the forward dominance as they are still devoid of ideas at the back with only an intercept try by Damian Willemse to show for endless amounts of possession they had, particularly in the first half.
The backline still seems to operate laterally without anyone providing direction, with often a aimless grubber gifting away possession when greater patience was needed.
Fleck admits there is still a long road ahead, but that consecutive victories in two South African derbies is something to be cherished.
“Look we know that we can improve, but it’s the first time we won here in 2 or 3 years. It is a hugely important win for us. Getting two wins a row in South African derbies is really important. I think the boys did exceptionally well in sticking to the tactics,” Fleck said.
“We know it wasn’t pretty, but it was smart. We put them under pressure. We built that lead, then we defended it. We will take that any day.”
After three consecutive South African derbies, the Stormers will recuperate this week with a bye although there is a Bok mid-week camp for the national players.