Stormers need to maintain the standard
SUPER RUGBY REACTION: The Stormers has now set a standard and created a level of expectancy for the remainder of the competition following their victory over the Chiefs at Newlands. Tauriq Ebrahim reports.
The Cape Town-based franchise was defensively outstanding in the final 10 minutes of the encounter and have put to bed the shadow that has hung over them after their humbling 21-60 defeat at the hands of the Chiefs in the 2016 quarterfinals.
"It's been a long journey since the quarterfinal. I am immensely proud of the way the boys played but it wasn't always in our favour, the Chiefs had us under the pump for many parts of the game.
"The things that we had worked on and identified [during pre-season] came through [in the match]. When they got into our half, they put us under pressure but we had guts and determination. This was a tipping point for us and we can now take a lot of confidence going forward.
"We reached a tipping point in the sense that there is growth in the team and we are starting to believe as a group. We have to enjoy the win against arguably the best New Zealand side," Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck said.
The encounter was always going to be the first real test of the season and had they not been successful at the conclusion of the game, Fleck stated that they would not have had any doubts about their style of play. However, the victory has now vindicated their decision to change the Stormers' brand.
"I don't think we would have doubts had we lost the game, we probably would have gotten more answers of where we are going. It certainly gives me, and the coaching group, confidence that we are on the right track.
"Everyone has belief and we are just going to keep going. We are realistic though, there are still a few cracks that we need to work on but if we want to do well in this competition, we will have to play like we did [against the Chiefs] every week. The team realises that we have to play at this intensity every game," he added.
Fleck added that his side is beginning to learn to play under fatigue - something the New Zealand sides have practically perfected.
"What the Kiwi teams have learnt is to play under fatigue and that is something that we still need to learn. There was a bit of growth because we had to play under extreme fatigue.
"They upped the tempo in the last 15 minutes and had this been last year, we would have fallen off. We are fit but we need to play under extreme conditions and that showed in the defence in the last couple of minutes.
"I do think that South Africans are fit but need to learn to stay in the game when we are tired and that's where I feel they [the New Zealand teams] take it to a new level - they can still attack and play when they are tired," Fleck stated.
By Tauriq Ebrahim