Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Cape Town - DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee reckons he got more out of the defeat to the Toyota Cheetahs than he did in his previous two pre-season games. By that he probably means he has learned things that he would rather not know.
Whereas the last time the Stormers under-strength team saw action in the first friendly against the Boland Cavaliers in Wellington there was a lot of positivity about the depth available, the 22-14 loss to the Super Rugby team told a different story. There are a lot of willing young players, and someone suggested the new theme tune for the Stormers should be “The Young Ones”, but how many of them are really ready for the step up?
Although there were only eight points in it at the end, the Stormers were well beaten by the Cheetahs. It was not the result that was disturbing though, rather the fact that there were very few players challenging for places in the first choice team that would have caused the incumbents to have sleepless nights.
This was a game where the outflow of mostly second tier players during the off-season was most apparent. Since last October, when the Currie Cup season ended, almost an entire team has either left the region, retired or been released from contract. If you don’t agree look at this list: Conrad Jantjes, JJ Engelbrecht, Jaque Fourie, Tim Whitehead, Johann Sadie, Lionel Cronje, Ricky Januarie, Pieter Louw, Francois Louw, Anton van Zyl, Adriaan Fondse, JD Moller, CJ van der Linde (since last Super Rugby season)…
There are several others, not all of them capable of playing Super Rugby, but several of them better and boasting more Super Rugby experience than the back-up players who are left.
One area that the Stormers definitely have a yawning gap is in the area of fetcher flank, where over the past two seasons they have not just lost Louw, but also Luke Watson (admittedly a No8 at the end). Perhaps it is unfair to judge this facet of the game when the team is up against that magician Heinrich Brussow, but nonetheless the Cheetahs were able to steal way too much Stormers ball at the breakdown.
Not that this is one of the areas that Coetzee says he is concerned about. He preferred instead to blame referee Craig Joubert’s understandable laxness at the breakdown (it was only a pre-season friendly after all).
“In this game certain guys got away with murder. Maybe they could have been penalised for slowing the ball down, being off-side, or not rolling away, so I am not too concerned as I know once Super Rugby starts the referees will be a lot stricter,” said Coetzee.
“It had nothing to do with not having an opensider on the field,” he added.
One thing in mitigation of the players that did not do so well against the Cheetahs is that several of them are only just coming off injury lay-offs. One of those was flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, who apart from missing 50% of his kicks at goal did not have the assured allround game that we became accustomed to from him when he first burst onto the scene from Varsity Cup level in 2011.
“Demetri wasn’t considered for the Lions game last week because of a hamstring injury, so for a first game it wasn’t so bad – there were things he did well and things he did not do so well,” said Coetzee.
The coach felt some of the newcomers, such as lock Eben Etzebeth, had again done well, and Nizaam Carr continues to impress. However while some will rave about club player Ederies Arendse he looks short of the pace required to excel at this level and should not survive the cut when Coetzee separates his off-season training squad into Stormers and Vodacom Cup groups later on Monday.