Grant on song for Stormers

    2012-04-20 14:40
    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town – Flyhalf Peter Grant is getting better just about every week for the Stormers as he reacclimatises to the rigours of Super Rugby.

    GALLERY: Super Rugby - Reds v Stormers

    The globetrotting No 10, why plies much of his trade in the less demanding rugby climate of Japan these days, was massively influential in the Stormers’ gratifying 23-13 victory over defending champions the Reds in Brisbane on Friday.

    It has become a bit of a tradition for “Bash” to return from Asia a little off the pace and often after missing a couple of early weeks of the southern hemisphere season.

    And yet the value of still having him aboard for the lion’s share of the campaign was emphasised once more at Suncorp Stadium, where the direction and purpose he gave to the side proved a big tilting factor against the Reds.

    Apart from kicking flawlessly off the tee again, Grant was responsible for the second and final Stormers try four minutes before half-time with a deft, decisive break close to the enemy line – it put the tourists into a commanding 14-point lead going into the shed and with their defensive system again largely disciplined and blanket-like, it seldom seemed likely that the embattled, injury-disrupted Queenslanders could claw back to win.

    Grant could boast 18 of the Stormers’ 23 points, and his full-blooded display also included one rib-rattler of a tackle on a flying Mike Harris into touch when a Reds try in their improved second half seemed at least a 50-50 prospect.

    Perhaps it will be of further concern to more demanding Stormers fans that again they could not complete a four-try bonus point job, but there’s a strong case for saying that bigger-picture needs were met and that was the crucial thing.

    By the third week of your overseas leg, and coming off a defeat, just bagging the four win points is often a satisfying development, especially considering that there was only a six-day turnaround from the brave first-time loss of 2012 to the Crusaders.

    The victory propelled the Stormers, unusually but seemingly decently led by Duane Vermeulen, back to the top of both the SA conference and overall tables, even if both the Bulls and Chiefs can overhaul them with respective wins themselves on Saturday.

    Their tour target, whatever it quietly is, must be very much on track, as they have now snared nine of a possible 15 points from the three overseas games thus far, and they will be favourites to knock over Aussie bottom-sawyers the Force in Perth next Saturday ahead of a bye weekend, thus swelling their haul to either 13 or 14 from a maximum of 20.

    That rest period is becoming reasonably urgent for the Stormers now, as the injury bogey has certainly paid a conspicuous visit to their camp after mostly staying away for the earliest weeks.

    As the Australian TV commentators admiringly noted, the Capetonians pulled off the Brisbane win without the combined 248 Super Rugby caps of Schalk Burger, Jean de Villiers and Andries Bekker.

    There may well be some further casualties now, as impressive young tight-fivers Eben Etzebeth and Steven Kitshoff came off in the second half showing the effects of wear and tear and Gio Aplon also had to be substituted in the 73rd minute; he was seen holding his left hamstring area afterwards.

    They probably hope that beanpole lock Bekker, who has stayed with the travelling party, can be considered against the Force because the lineout was one area that functioned anything but smoothly at Suncorp – in one instance it absolutely gifted James Horwill a flop-over try.

    But we also saw further evidence of just how close-knit and perfectionism-seeking this Stormers squad is, so they are bound to give this facet comprehensive attention before the big last tour push in Perth ...

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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