Under-fire Stormers head coach Allister Coetzee admits his squad lack confidence after a dreadful run of Super Rugby results.
Under-fire Stormers head coach Allister Coetzee admits his squad lack confidence after a dreadful run of Super Rugby results roots them to the foot of the table.
Their most recent defeat, a 22-11 loss to the Waratahs at Newlands on Sunday, consigned them to bottom spot in the overall standings as they once again failed to fire on attack.
It means the Stormers have won just once from seven games this season and, with the arrival of new Director of Rugby Gert Smal, the supporters' clamour for Coetzee's head is growing louder.
“What can you say, we are in a bit of a hole at the moment and it is just for this team to get out of that hole,” said Coetzee in the wake of the 'Tahs reversal.
“I guess we met the Waratahs at a bad time [because we are depleted] but there is a bye next week and it's a good time to re-look at our plans.”
The coach was at pains to stress his squad were undergoing a “cultural change” – a switch in mentality from the more rigid, kicking game of old to a new counter-attacking style. If that's the case, the players are clearly struggling to get to grips with it.
“The biggest change that we have tried to make this year is that when we get turn-over ball we try to run, we try to have a crack, but that is not working out because while we manage to pull it off for a while, the minute the pressure comes on the guys start kicking those balls away,” added Coetzee.
“That to me is a big concern, and it is why I put a question mark on the confidence of certain players. I think that is what hurt us in this game – we got turn-over ball, and then we kicked it away. That was not the plan. If you have one guy at the back for the opposition and you kick it straight down his throat, that comes down to lack of confidence.
“The picture I see out there is not the picture I know that is the plan and that we have trained to execute. The decision-making is poor and the execution is not there. I really don't want to be seen to be making excuses, but that may come down to just having too much inexperience. Having new players is great, it augurs well for the future, but you need to have experienced players around to guide them and bring solidity and stability, and we don't have that at the moment.
“We made play-offs in Super Rugby and Currie Cup for years with a kicking and defence game, but there were question marks over whether we would be able to actually go on and win the competition with that strategy. So in last year's Currie Cup we started changing and we feel that is the right way to go, which is to have a go from turn-over possession.
“But with every cultural change you make there will be mistakes before you start turning it around. What I've got to do now is persist with this group of players and make sure they don't go back to the defence and kicking orientated game. That is the key, we need to understand that we have to have a go.”
A cultural change is well and good – though having been in charge since 2010, the current culture is presumably of Coetzee's making – but stand-in skipper Duane Vermeulen says the pressure of the poor run is weighing heavily on some of the younger members of the squad.
Vermeulen captained the side on Sunday in the absence of Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers, with the Stormers also missing Gio Aplon and Schalk Burger.
“If you get turn-over ball inside your own 22, then for us it's like you don't play rugby in your own half. That's the mindset,” said Vermeulen.
“That is why many of the guys are saying we are not going to play rugby in our own half, but we play over there, in the opposition half. We've got a good defence, and we know that our defence wins us turnovers. So we kick to there, and we will plan from there, and if they make a mistake, we can capitalise on it.
“Maybe there is a guy or two who goes away from our plan a bit. Maybe that plan that we have and what a guy sees happening on the field in front of him is a bit different.
“There are guys who are coming in who are scared because of the position we are in, which is difficult for him to deal with. And yes, some guys read the papers. They will see what is written, and it becomes a mental thing. Rugby is not only a physical game, but also a mental game.”