CAPE TOWN – “We’ll take it. We’ll take it!”
That was Robbie Fleck’s blunt response after the Stormers opened their Super Rugby account on Saturday.
And you know, sometimes that’s actually good enough. The Stormers did not play champagne rugby in their first home tussle of the season. But after the nightmare at Loftus, nobody really expected them to.
The game was all about the result. And for 84 minutes they were losing. In fact, they hadn’t even scored a try in 164 minutes of Super Rugby. Another defeat and the atmosphere at the training sessions at the High Performance Centre in Bellville this week would have resembled a morgue.
Sometimes blood, sweat, guts and 23 desperate souls are required to pull off a backs-to-the-wall victory. There will come a time when a bit more skill and finesse is required, but Saturday was all about the “W” and a Herschel Jantjies try. SP Marais’ conversion provided it in the dying minutes and the end result is that the Stormers can now look ahead to the Sharks this week as only the second South African team to beat the Lions in four seasons.
“When you look at the stats, and you see that you have 25 percent possession, 25 percent territory, nine penalties against, you staring at another poor performance,” Fleck said.
“I think tactically the Lions were pretty good in that first half. They were putting us under pressure. But at least we stayed in the game. That’s what Siya (Kolisi) spoke about: immense character. But we still had to play and retain possession.
There had to be leadership on the field. To go back to the scrum and have a crack there. I felt that the boys were really on point. It was a completely different team when there was immense pressure to win.
“I felt that they made the right decisions to win. I felt the breakdown was intense and we managed to maintain possession through good clean ball. It shows that when we all pulling the same direction we can beat some of the best teams in the competition. I mean it’s been four years since we’ve beaten them. So, we’ll take it. We’ll take it!”
Just like the Stormers last week when they lost their inspirational skipper Kolisi at Loftus to injury in the first quarter, the Lions too lost their way when their captain Warren Whiteley failed to finish the game due to a pectoral muscle injury.
At that critical juncture it was complete pendulum swing as the Stormers welcomed back Springbok enforcer Eben Etzebeth to the fray that created a great deal of momentum for the Stormers.
“Eben brought that impact, Scarra (Ntubeni) as well.
"Guys that have been in our system for a while. They have all been together with Siya. It was a different team when they were all together. Eben certainly has a presence,” Fleck said.
“It was awesome to see a guy that hasn’t played for Stormers for two years to come on and play like he did. It shows that he cares.”