Cape Town - Sport24 highlights 5 talking points from the Stormers’ 39-19 Super Rugby qualifier defeat to the Brumbies at Newlands.
1. Lineout woes
The Stormers lost no fewer than seven lineouts on their own throw! It’s an area of their play that was troublesome all season and in a knockout game a statistic like this is simply inexcusable.
Hooker Bongi Mbonambi has proved this season that it’s a skill he is yet to master, and his signing from the Bulls in pre-season needs to be questioned, especially when a promising player like Stephan Coetzee was waiting in the wings. Coetzee promptly moved to Griquas and featured for the Cheetahs in Super Rugby this year.
I noted the SuperSport commentators explain that lineout woes cannot always solely be blamed of the hooker. However countless over-throws from the Stormers No 2 definitely proved that notion wrong.
2. Absence of Duane and Schalk
It shouldn’t be used as an excuse, but the absence of skipper Duane Vermeulen and the late withdrawal of flank Schalk Burger appeared to have played a part in the Stormers’ lacklustre performance.
Vermeulen, who was sidelined with a neck injury, also surprised the Stormers when he flew to France in midweek to be unveiled by his new club, Toulon.
The Stormers were taken aback by Vermeulen’s move, with WP Director of Rugby Gert Smal expressing his disappointment in an e-mail to Sport24 on Thursday night.
But I feel it was unprofessional from both Vermeulen and the union. He is the captain of the team, and while he was not scheduled to play, surely the Stormers should have requested his presence at training sessions all week? He was, after all, expected to be ready for a possible semi-final the following week, which makes it strange that he was given leave in such a crucial week. Or did he go AWOL? If so, the player needs to be penalised.
It nevertheless leaves the impression that all was not right behind the scenes.
With Burger also ruled out with a groin injury, the Stormers lacked spark in their loose trio and were bossed on the ground by David Pocock and company.
3. Disappointing crowd attendance
Newlands was not even half-full for Saturday’s qualifier, with only a meagre 20 000-something fans making their way to the famous old ground. And that for a Super Rugby knockout game! Three, four years ago Newlands would have been packed to the rafters for a game like this.
Perhaps it is a sign if the times, or have fans just become fed up with the lack of imagination the Stormers had shown in recent years?
Newlands is still the best supported ground in South Africa, but the way the SA teams have performed in 2015, crowd attendances are certain to dwindle even more.
4. Lack of composure
Yet again, the Stormers failed to “pitch” in a knockout game with high expectations - and again at their beloved Newlands.
Something wasn’t right about this Stormers team under Allister Coetzee.
Coetzee led them to three South African conference titles, but when it really mattered - in knockout games - they came up short too often.
Following their semi-final win over the Waratahs in 2010, the Stormers lost their next four knockout games in the competition (Bulls - 2010 final; Crusaders - 2011 semi-final; Sharks - 2012 semi-final; Brumbies - 2015 qualifier).
They realised that Super Rugby is a step up from the Currie Cup and the team’s lack of executing their skills when it really mattered points to a lack of composure.
5. Defensive frailties
Since the departure of Jacques Nienaber as defence coach, the Stormers appear to have gone backwards in this department. Conceding six tries at home in a playoff game should not be acceptable.
It was especially their defence out wide which was exposed on Saturday with big Brumbies wing Joe Tomane racing in for a hat-trick of tries.
Perhaps the notion that their back-three - Cheslin Kolbe, Dillyn Leyds and Seabelo Senatla - are too small is a good argument in this regard, but their positioning on defence also needs to be questioned after a horror-show against the Brumbies.