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
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 ...
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