Stormers will improve communication but stick to their DNA

rugby23 April 2024 14:18
By:Gavin Rich
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John Dobson © Gallo Images

The DHL Stormers know they were hurt by their poor execution of their offload game in the defeat to the Ospreys at the weekend but they have no intention of moving away from what they firmly believe is their DNA when they host Leinster at the DHL Stadium on Saturday.

The Stormers have lost ground in the race for a top four place on the Vodacom United Rugby Championship log after being punished by an Ospreys team that gleefully fed on and capitalised on their mistakes last weekend.

The Stormers’ first home URC defeat of the season, only their second in league play since the Emirates Lions beat them at the DHL Stadium in December 2021, has effectively left them needing to win every remaining game if they want to host a home playoff game.

And even then, they will have to rely on other results going their way, so it’s out of their hands.

Head coach John Dobson didn’t mince words after the 27-21 defeat, and described his team as being way “too loose”, something that was focused on by the media when defence coach Norman Laker and loose-forward Marcel Theunissen went in front of an online press conference on Tuesday.

“It (the offload game) is in our DNA, it is who we are and we are not going to change it,” said Theunissen, who will earn his landmark 50th cap for the Stormers in Saturday’s clash with the URC log leaders.

“We have just got to be more decisive. We want to play rugby for our supporters and the way we play is the rugby that they enjoy. So we will not be taking that away, we must just make better decisions.”

Laker said that the Stormers’ offload game is the point of difference between them and other teams so there wasn’t any question of the team being expected to put away what is effectively the biggest weapon in their armoury when the going gets tough.


“We have spoken about the offloads and we know it cost us against the Ospreys but that is what we are,” said Laker. “If we take that aspect of our game away then we become the same as any other team. The option taking when it comes to offloads hasn’t been great but we are not going to ask the team to go into their shells.”

The Ospreys game was a replica of some of the games the Stormers lost on a disastrous November tour, with the four defeats in four starts then effectively responsible for the Stormers now fighting just to be in the top four whereas in previous seasons of the URC they were a perennial presence in the top two or three.

But as Laker says, to blame everything on a few offloads that went awry would be to miss the point of what has brought the Stormers their past success and there was a lot that worked for them after the overseas tour when they went on an extended winning run where among their victims were might La Rochelle in the Champions Cup and the Bulls in the URC.

“It was Dobbo who referred to loose rugby and I think when he says that what he is referring to is when for instance that ball from JJ (Kotze) to Evan (Roos) that cost us. We felt as a group that instead of making that extra pass, JJ should instead have carried the ball into contact, and then set up an extra phase and we kick the ball out on the halfway line and then defend at the set piece.

“But JJ tried to pass another ball and we knocked it and gave them the scrum which gave them an immediate entry (into our 22 with them having possession). Attack coach Dawie (Snyman) has spoken to the guys about the communication. Sometimes you get overexcited and I am carrying the ball and for example Marcel sees a hole in the defence and he shouts for me to offload the ball instead of telling me there’s a hole but there’s also a defender there so rather set up the ball and set up another phase.

“In the past games the decisions went in our favour and we were standing under the poles clapping hands and smiling at each other. This time it wasn’t the same. We went for it but instead of celebrating a try and a 7-0 lead we ended up conceding the try ourselves and suddenly found ourselves down 5-0. There were a few lessons we learned, which was good. Not the defeat, but the lessons.”

He added that there was also no question of the Stormers becoming more safety first in their approach now that they have reached a point in the season when they can’t afford to lose.

“We are in a situation where we are effectively going into the playoff phase early but in the past two years we haven’t changed anything once we reached the final or the playoffs, so we won’t change anything now. For the next couple of weeks the focus will just be on communicating better and being more decisive.”