Ankle puts Grant in doubt
Cape Town - The Stormers' tour Down Under is fast turning into a major test of character.
As if the defeat to the Chiefs and Jaque Fourie's accompanying injury were not bad enough, Peter Grant looks set to miss Friday's Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Blues in Auckland with an ankle injury.
Should Grant to forced to withdraw, Lionel Cronjé will start in the Stormers' No 10 jersey, though that in itself is not a major crisis. Although the Stormers may be giving up a lot in terms of experience, Cronjé did display promise in recent games against the Lions, Sharks and Crusaders.
Grant and Fourie are both still in camp, but Danie Poolman has also linked up with the side to provide cover in the backline.
The situation could, of course, become a headache if the Stormers are forced to take on the Blues without a replacement flyhalf, but that is a problem for later in the week should it come to that.
According to coach Alister Coetzee, the Stormers had a "very productive day" as they identified the mistakes they need to rectify from the past weekend's loss. He mentioned that many of the problems were due to poor tactical kicking.
"The execution of the kicking has to be accurate. If you kick too far you make it difficult for the chasers and you have to defend for seven or eight phases before regaining possession," said Coetzee.
"It led to us having to make twice as many tackles as the Chiefs. We also conceded turnover possession and could not exert pressure with the ball in hand. The biggest problem was that we could not keep the ball in hand."
According to Verusco's statistics on ruggastats.com, the Stormers made 210 tackles to the Chiefs' 101. Every one of the Stormers' starting forwards made 10 or more tackles, with Duane Vermeulen (22) and Schalk Burger (20) the busiest defenders.
And that after the Stormers led 20-3 at half-time - no wonder then that Coetzee on Monday said that the team was its "own enemy".
The numerous mistakes in the second half were also out of character for the Stormers. One does not usually have to doubt Grant and Andries Bekker's handling abilities and such outstanding players need not even have those errors pointed out to them and they will undoubtedly be looking to put it right.
Of course, the problem is that even a good performance may not be good enough to beat the Blues at Eden Park.
"I think there is a lot of confidence in their team and consistency is a result of that. They have been together for two seasons now. There is continuity in the coaching staff and among the players," said Coetzee.
"We cannot afford to concede possession against them. The Reds starved them of the ball on the weekend, but started making mistakes when the Blues got their hands on the ball."
The Blues lost for only the second time this season on Friday, but still gained two log points from their 37-31 defeat to the Reds. They lead the Crusaders by five points in the New Zealand Conference and are second on the overall standings behind the Reds.