Analysis: Minor tweaks can help Stormers sizzle in the north

Stormers: Split with Willemse, Feinburg-Mngomezulu and Libbok Credit: Alamy
Stormers: Split with Willemse, Feinburg-Mngomezulu and Libbok Credit: Alamy

The Stormers have begun to develop an unwanted trend with their form in the northern hemisphere, particularly in cold and wet weather.

So far, all the blemishes in their season, including three losses and draws across all competitions, have come in the north in unfavourable conditions.

The Capetonians’ latest defeat came at the hands of Glasgow Warriors last weekend, who scored a late try to win 24-17 in a truly thrilling clash.

As scintillating as it may be for the neutrals, the loss will have coach John Dobson frustrated, and the tactician described their performance as “a very bad day at the office”.

As the United Rugby Championship holders prepare to face London Irish in England this weekend for the Champions Cup, Planet Rugby explores what went wrong and what needs to be done for the Stormers to get things right up north.

Glasgow grief

Massive credit must go to Franco Smith and his coaching team in Glasgow for how they were so well prepared for the Stormers’ structures and their near faultless execution of the game plan.

The Stormers operate on a rush defensive system that functions on an out-to-in basis that aims to prevent teams from going wide and force them back into midfield, similar in some senses to Springboks. For most of the season, the structures have worked brilliantly, with the defenders rushing attacking players and forcing mistakes for the Capetonians to capitalise on.

However, Glasgow were ready and played with their attacking line far deeper than usual, negating the rush and exposing the narrow defensive line with several powerful surges down the outside channels.

Take this sensational Sebastian Cancelliere try, started deep in Glasgow’s territory where a flat ball gets played out the back, and with quick hands, the outside channel is free to exploit.

The Stormers became more aware of this, and then the Scots began punching holes in the midfield as Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones took control of the game. The centre pairing was brilliant, switching between 12 and 13 whilst powerfully commanding the game.

Dobson’s men missed a ridiculous 39 tackles. However, in many ways, Glasgow killed the Stormers with their own game, and a clever little grubber kick behind the rush defence put the game to bed with minimal time left on the clock.

Solutions

Full-back Clayton Blommetjies did not have his best game and was weak in the tackle on occasions and not quite there under the high ball. The former Cheetah is a sensational player on the front foot and gives the Stormers venom on attack but seems to struggle in the tighter, more game management-oriented encounters.

Fortunately for Dobson, his young prodigy Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu is fit and ready to go. The young star has only featured in a handful of games, but there is no doubting the outrageous quality the 20-year-old possesses.

A natural fly-half but certainly versatile enough to play 12, where he should be selected this weekend. Having Feinberg-Mngomezulu at inside centre relieves a tremendous amount of pressure from Manie Libbok and adds another natural playmaker for the speedsters out wide to feed off. Another bonus is improved exits. something the Stormers struggled with against Glasgow.

Damian Willemse can go to full-back and provide stability under the high ball, a good kicking game and calculated counterattacks. In addition to that would be a three-way axis between some of South Africa’s most exciting young stars – something that all Stormers fans have been patiently waiting for.

The trio have only started one game for the Stormers but it looked like a match made in heaven. Dobson must be tempted to give the combination time in the saddle and see how it fares.

The forward pack performed decently in Glasgow and arguably could have been rewarded more at scrum time. However, the Stormers will want more out of their maul this weekend.

The Stormers tried to go up the middle of the park on attack far more, and it did not work very well. The explosive Hacjivah Dayimani was underutilised in the middle of the park. The number eights carrying ability is solid, but his true venom lies in the outside channels with a bit of space to show how fast and intelligent he is with ball in hand.

Granted the conditions are different, but against London Irish in Round Two, Dayimani made 119 metres, the most of any forward, and matched Leinster wing James Lowe’s four clean breaks.

Get Dayimani in those outside channels because that is where he earns his money.

First clash in England

Since joining the Champions Cup, it is the Stormers’ first game in England, where the weather concerns remain. The forecast for the game on Sunday is cold and windy.

The Stormers have had their chance to experience the weather, and signs of progression are now required. With a few tweaks to their personnel, trust and togetherness in the defensive structure and improved exits, this team can win whilst playing their style.

However, the Capetonians will know by now that they will need to be completely on top of their structure or they will pay. A win this weekend against the Exiles puts them in a strong position for the knockouts. However, a loss means their progression in the tournament will hinge on the Clermont clash.

READ MORE: Champions Cup: The nine stat leaders heading into Round Three, including most metres, turnovers and tries

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