The Stormers head into their home match against the Reds from Queensland in Australia on the back of some terrible form. Three losses out of four matches on tour, with their only victory being a two point win over the Hurricanes, which they achieved on their first tour game.
A lot has been spoken about the referreeing decisions against the Stormers, and against most South African sides in general, but that is no excuse for a side boasting Springboks such as captain, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana and Andries Bekker. Not to mention up and coming stars such as Eben Etzebeth.
The Stormers management have lamented injuries to key players, with Peter Grant, Schalk Burger and Tiaan Liebenberg being out for some time. Jaco Taute, who was imported from the relegated Lions team to shore up the fullback position, also ruled himself out for the rest of the season through injury.
Elton Jantjies, also from the Lions, was brought in on loan to give some direction and spark to the much-vaunted Stormers backline. This has yet to happen! Although one can forgive the youngster as perhaps his mind has not been on rugby after the passing of his father in January.
Dimitri Catrikilis was allowed to leave the Western Cape for the his new franchise, the Southern Kings, and despite some rugby lessons being taught to the Eastern Cape side, they have not been embarrassed as many thought they would be. Some very good performance, against the odds, has meant a call-up to the Springbok training camp for the young flyhalf.
These are pretty much the same group of players that saw the Stormers reach three consecutive semi-finals in Super rugby. So the question must be asked, “Has Allister Coetzee run out of ideas in getting the Stormers to take the next step up?”.
The Stormers game-plan has always been based on a solid defence, with the boot of Grant and Joe Pietersen knocking over the penalties to keep their noses in front. But as soon as the Stormers fall behind, they very seldom have the tactical aptitude to open the game up and score tries. Most of the tries that the Stormers do score are from rolling mauls.
One should consider that when Coetzee was assistant coach of the Springboks under Jake White, the men in green-and-gold played a very similar style of play. It was not until Eddie Jones joined the Boks as a Technical Advisor, that the Boks started scoring some scintilating tries.
The Stormers have shown that they can score tries, when allowed to do so. But I still feel that the biggest stumbling block to the Stormers actually having a chance of winning the Super rugby competition, is Coetzee himself. Theo Wakefield, CEO of Western Province Rugby, stated that the coaches’ position is not under threat, but is secure.
Really? Why? The Stormers have had their worst season in a very long time. It can be safely said that any other coach would have been looking over his shoulder as to who was being lined up for his job. Why is the Cape job so cushy?
Stormers’ forwards coach, Matthew Proudfoot, has done wonders with a pack that was once termed ‘powder puffs’ in world rugby. Not feared, but laughed at! He has turned these forwards into a unit that can hold their ground and even gain ground against some of the most feared and experience packs.
Former Springbok centre, Robbie Fleck, has not had much of the same success with the backline, despite having some of the most exciting names in the Southern hemisphere. But this can only be down to the dominance that Coetzee wields in the team. I feel that Fleck will be able to become one of the most exciting backline coaches in world rugby, if he is allowed to do so.
The Reds game represents a chance for the Stormers to show that perhaps their form this season has not been so bad, but just misplaced. Or it could prove true that Coetzee has outstayed his welcome at Newlands and that it is time for a more ‘out of the box’ thinking coach, with a more attack-minded approach. With wholesale changes being made due to injuries, a victory for the home side against a Reds team that will be led by the enigmatic duo of Quade Cooper and Wil Genia, seems difficult to predict.
Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager, once said (in his heavy and difficult Scottish accent), “I don’t care how many goals a team scores against us, as long as we score one more!”. How true! So what if you have a leaky defence, as long as you outscore your opponents, you will always win.