Has the idea tank run dry for Cape Town's Stormers?

Robbie Fleck. Shaun Roy, Gallo Images/Getty Images

Ever since former South Africa centre Robbie Fleck took charge of the Stormers in 2016, he hasn't stopped talking about following a New Zealand blueprint.

The coach tends to mention his admiration of their players' work-rate, with and without the ball, and how quickly they get back into position on attack and defence. He talks about their superior skills, and their ability to make the right decisions on the field.

But most of all he talks about their basics, and how well the Kiwi teams manage to execute the fundamentals of the game better than anyone else on the planet. As far as Fleck is concerned, that is the key to the All Blacks' and New Zealand rugby's dominance in the sport.

But in just over two years of Fleck's reign as coach of the Cape Town franchise, they haven't looked like closing the gap -- which may actually be a gulf -- between his side and their rivals from the land of the Long White Cloud.

On Friday morning, the Stormers suffered their 10th straight defeat against Kiwi opposition in New Zealand, putting on another frustrating display that must have infuriated some of the loyal supporters who took a sick day to watch the team trip over their shoelaces against the Highlanders.

It was a familiar display, which had oodles of positives, but double the dose of negatives. It is something Stormers fans have become used to over the years, although the Highlanders did butcher a few tries which would made the scoreline a bit more familiar as well.

After a wonderful win against the Chiefs at Newlands last year, the Stormers lost all three of their matches on their tour of New Zealand, conceding an average of over 50 points a match.

In 2016, they conceded 60 points in a playoff match against the Chiefs in front of their home fans. Last week the Stormers also went down to the Crusaders in Christchurch in a similar fashion.

'The basics,' not to mention their decision-making, haven't come along as Fleck would have hoped. Silly mistakes and brain explosions, on attack and defence, have been their downfall, and those issues again tripped them up against the Highlanders under the stadium roof in Dunedin.

The Stormers' lineout has cost them dearly twice in the last three weeks, as they just haven't been able to secure a proper platform from which to launch from, especially when they find themselves in the opposition's 22. Their scrum, though, is actually world class, but they need their lineout to improve if they are to get back in playoff contention.

Despite their lineout struggles, they looked really good with ball in hand against the Highlanders, but inaccuracies curtail them on attack. It's a combination bad decision-making, impatience in the final third, and a lack of skill to execute that try-scoring pass.

The same goes for their play at the breakdown, as well as on defence. Against a team like the Highlanders you have to turn pressure into points. But if you end up spilling the ball in the opposition 22, and they almost end up scoring from the resulting scrum each time, then you are going to lose more games than you are going to win.

They also need to re-visit their box kicks, especially against an opposition back three who are much bigger than their wingers chasing the ball. The Highlanders hit the Stormers on the counter a few times from misdirected kicks, and one of those counters led to a try that hurt the visitors before halftime.

The Capetonians are still far away from competing against the New Zealanders, especially when it comes to executing the basics. To say it's back to the drawing board for Fleck and his team is a bit of an understatement after another poor tour of New Zealand.