Stormers won’t play the blame game as Crusaders loom
Stormers skills and attack coach Paul Feeney has come to the defence of inexperienced hooker Dean Muir after two crucial lost lineouts led directly to the Waratahs winning 34-27 in Sydney last Saturday.
Muir and his jumpers failed to connect twice late in the game and from the second botched lineout‚ Waratahs flank Ned Hanigan scored the winning try.
The result has put pressure on the Stormers in the build-up to a huge challenge against the defending champion Crusaders in Christchurch this weekend.
“[Hooker] Dean Muir threw two perfect ‘darts’‚” Feeney said.
“They were placed exactly where they were supposed to be‚ but our lifters and jumpers had a misunderstanding and we all saw the result.
“Dean was hung out to dry a bit but he was a 1000% accurate with his throw.
"It was the lifters‚ jumpers and the movement that let us down. The forwards were disappointed and had a long chat about it after the game.
“They were options we have trained but people got some things wrong. It was the same for the backs earlier in the game. They created opportunities during the match and left them out there. We have to be more clinical.
“In the sheds afterwards the forwards spoke about what happened in the last seven or eight minutes of the match. Pieter-Steph du Toit and a few others were fairly direct.”
The Stormers are also sweating on the fitness of flyhalf Damian Willemse who left the field early in the second half on Saturday.
"Damian suffered a haematoma to his quad - he got a big knock‚” Feeney said. “His availability depends how he comes through in the next 48 hours.
"If we were playing on Thursday‚ he wouldn't be able to play‚ so we are going to see how he goes over the next 48 hours. We will assess him day to day.
“Damian is our starting flyhalf but we have confidence in George Whitehead. He did a reasonable job when he came on against the Waratahs and he will have learnt from that experience.”
Facing the Crusaders though‚ remains a huge challenge for any team‚ but particularly for the Stormers who suffered a massive 57-24 in Christchurch in the corresponding fixture last year.
In 10 visits to play the Crusaders‚ the Stormers have never won in New Zealand.
“When you have the Crusaders score 45 points against the Chiefs‚ that gets your attention as a defence coach because it’s a pretty good start‚” Feeney said.
“They looked sharp and scored some good tries and maybe in Ronan O’Gara‚ their new backline coach‚ they are benefiting from a new voice.
"There is no doubt that we are going to have to be up for it on Saturday.
“We talked about playing the Crusaders and the boys see it as an opportunity.
"We all know what happened against them last year and it’s in the back of the mind‚ but it’s a challenge.
“We can’t wait to get back down there and show them how we can really play the game.
"Of course we know it will be difficult‚ but hitting them early in the season is a good time because it gives us a chance to assess where we stand with our own processes.”