CAPE TOWN – Let’s just press pause. Then rewind. And then try to start the season all over again this coming weekend.
That’s the message Stormers coach Robbie Fleck will have for his players when they gather in Bellville this week.
After watching his team being thrashed 40-3 by a rampant Bulls team at Loftus on Saturday in the Stormers’ Super Rugby opener, Fleck would though have been forgiven if he delivered a severe tongue lashing instead.
The Stormers were not just comprehensively beaten on the scoreboard, but were outplayed in all facets of the game.
They looked off the pace, came second in the collisions, had their defence exposed out wide, and were simply horrible at lineout time.
And even when they had the ball in their possession, they seemed bereft of any imaginative plays in the backline.
There were times when the Stormers went through numerous phases, but only moved laterally across the field without anyone either making an incisive break or looking to offload to a runner.
In contrast, the Bulls were imaginative, with Warrick Gelant and Rosko Specman providing the dynamism at the back.
Equally, flyhalf Handré Pollard was clinical after being allowed to dictate matters with his educated boot, due to the Bulls’ abrasive forward pack laying the platform upfront.
“It was a tough start for us. Well done to the Bulls. Clinical performance from them, and not so from us. Two weeks ago they made all the mistakes and we capitalised on them, and now we made all the mistakes and they put us to bed,” Fleck said.
“Their kicking game was good. One thing Pote (Human) has brought back is the Bulls’ kicking game, and their contestable kicks were excellent.
“I felt Pollard took control once they built up that lead. He started to control things excellently in the second half, and they kept us under pressure.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) February 18, 2019
“It certainly was an off day. But it won’t keep us down. We came into the game with a lot of confidence. We came here with the intention to win, so it is a setback.
“We have to pick ourselves up. Lots of teams have lost their first game and gone on to do good things.”
Fleck was certainly not looking to make any excuses, but admitted that the loss of captain Siya Kolisi in the 26th minute did have a debilitating effect on his charges.
“That’s not an excuse. We did not deliver, but when you lose your inspirational leader, for him to go off early, of course that upsets things,” the former Springbok centre said.
HIGHLIGHTS: 2019 Super Rugby Week 1 Bulls v Stormers
A spectacular Super Rugby debut from Rosko Specman propels the @BlueBullsRugby to a dominant 40-3 victory over @THESTORMERS in Pretoria. #SuperRugby #BULvSTO pic.twitter.com/cgYWZG1Zim
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) February 16, 2019
“He got us off to a great start, put a big hit on Lood de Jager and won us a turnover. I thought things were looking up for us at that point. But he got a finger in the eye, so it was a shame to lose him.”
The Stormers will hope the return of a few players from injury this week will bring about a change in fortunes, as the powerful Lions lay in wait on Saturday.