21 July, 2017, 12:00 am
THE Stormers might have been humiliated by the Chiefs in Super Rugby’s quarter-finals last year, but heading into the corresponding fixture in Cape Town this season, they are nothing but thankful for that drubbing.
The Chiefs put on an attacking master-class last year, winning 60-21, against a Stormers side which was blown away in what was their first matchup with a Kiwi side for the season.
But the Stormers made sure they used that game as the basis for development this year, with coach Robbie Fleck knowing full well they had to step it up several gears from where they were in 2016 if they were going to be competitive at the business end of the competition.
“They actually helped us by exposing the areas we needed to work on, and we did that during the off-season,” he told media ahead of the rematch on Sunday morning.
“The big disadvantage we had last season was that we did not play against New Zealand teams in the buildup to the playoffs. We didn’t know what to expect and what the Chiefs hit us with in the quarter-final was a level above what we were used to. They really played well in that game and they asked a lot of questions that we could not answer.”
This year, the Stormers’ draw instead had them playing no Australian teams and facing all the Kiwi sides, with rather mixed fortunes. First up, in round seven, it was the Chiefs back in Cape Town, and the 34-26 win was a massive turnaround from that previous encounter, in what was a very high quality contest.
“We looked at last year’s quarter-final before we played them in April, and we played well at Newlands to beat them,” Fleck said. “They did exploit us in one or two areas, and we have looked at that, but we won the last time we played them so it has pushed last year’s game out of our minds and given us confidence.”
The Stormers also beat the Blues 30-22 at home in round 13, but in between that they were done over on their tour to New Zealand —— losing to the Crusaders 57-24, the Highlanders 57-14 and the Hurricanes 41-22.
So while the Stormers have upped their attacking prowess —— scoring the fourth-most tries in the competition (64) —— they are also the fifth-equal worst defensive side, having let in 61.