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Pressure mounting on Stormers bosses after Chiefs loss

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The spotlight has quickly turned onto the Stormers’ hierarchy following their embarrassing 60-21 defeat in the Super Rugby playoff at the hands of the Chiefs on Saturday evening.

Supporters and the former players have vented their frustrations on social media after the Cape franchise failed to make the semifinals for the second consecutive year. However, the anger was directed mostly at the people who run the show at the franchise which year after year draws heavily on the enviable wealth of talent from the many traditional rugby schools in the region.

Robbie Fleck was appointed as the Stormers’ interim coach in December last year when Eddie Jones’ tenure ended just two weeks after he was introduced to the media. Fleck was also handed two assistant coaches, Paul Treu and Russell Winter, who haven’t coached at this level before.

Former Western Province flank Rob Louw led the charge on the Newlands bigwigs by voicing his concerns on Twitter after Saturday night’s defeat.

“Sad for my second son Skalla and Vincent Koch the fish rots from the top need to sort out our internal politics and admin!” tweeted Louw.

“Internal politics a mess look what Boland did overnight admin and structures in WP a joke#gravy train!”

The Stormers won the Africa Conference 1 title, the easiest of the Super Rugby conferences, mainly because they didn’t have to face any New Zealand teams during the round-robin stage.

But when they finally faced Kiwi opposition on Saturday night, they were thrashed by Chiefs, who showed off their superior skill and in front of an unusually small Newlands playoff crowd, who showed their disgust by making their way to the gates 15 minutes before the final whistle.

“I said before the game that not having faced New Zealand opposition this year would play a part and it certainly was a big factor in our loss,” Fleck said afterwards.

“We warned about the intensity and the tempo that they play at and they showed us that in the first half. When they got in behind us, the writing was on the wall.”

“You would like to test yourself against these guys throughout the season and we didn’t get a taste of it. Now we have and now we know what it is like and we have to up our game for next year.”

Fleck did a decent job under the circumstances. He started the campaign without star centre Damian de Allende, while Springboks Eben Etzebeth missed a few matches because of injury.

Key backline players Juan de Jongh and Cheslin Kolbe also missed the last few matches of their campaign after being included in the SA Sevens side for next month’s Olympics Games in Brazil. The Stormers also lost their two first-choice flyhalves in the first four matches of the campaign.

For Fleck, it was a learning experience more than anything else, because nobody expected him to take this team beyond the quarterfinal stage. However, there is still a feeling of under-achievement for a union that boasts the best schoolboy talent in the country, but yet they haven’t been able to get it right at Super Rugby level.

It seems like Fleck will continue as head coach next year, as he is planning a trip to England to spend some time with Jones. But that visit may not be enough to sort out the problems the team will face next season when they find themselves drawn against the New Zealand teams.

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