Vodacom Super Rugby
Ewen compliments Stormers
Cape Town – There were no points gained for the Stormers, but their brains trust at least got a compliment from Reds coach Ewen McKenzie when he explained how the Cape side’s first defeat at Newlands in more than 13 months had been plotted.
“We studied the Stormers’ defence throughout the off-season. Our defence coach, Matt Taylor, just about did a thesis on it,” McKenzie said after his side’s convincing 19-6 Vodacom Super Rugby victory.
“When you do that you gain a good idea of where the opportunities might open up. We did not convert it into tries, but turned it into field position.”
McKenzie’s revelation is in itself a compliment for the Stormers coaching staff as the team has been leading the way in at least one area of the game for more than a season now.
However, a defeat like Saturday’s also raises some difficult questions. The Stormers’ two yellow cards – Duane Vermeulen in the 9th minute and Deon Fourie in the 67th – points to poor discipline.
Secondly, the Reds gave a tactical masterclass and thanks to smart kicking set up camp in Stormers territory during crucial periods.
The Stormers did well for 25 or so minutes after the break, but lost momentum.
Much has been said about the Crusaders and Stormers being so-called favourites for the tournament, but the Reds are a very impressive side.
Generally attacking play is a non-negotiable for them, but it was noticeable that they adapted and played a more conservative game.
The halfback pairing of Will Genia and Quade Cooper oozes class and will become a major factor in world rugby. That’s if Cooper’s agent does not convince him to abdicate to rugby league from next year.
“We have learned an important lesson over the past 12 months. You can run with the ball, but will struggle against a team that defends really well,” said McKenzie.
“We developed the ability to play for field position when necessary. Obviously we respect the Stormers’ defence. The tactic of playing for field position was always one we could fall back on. We ran with the ball early in the game, but tried to put it in the corners after that.
“But any kick has to be supported by good defence and I’m very happy with how we defended.”
The two yellow cards also took a toll on the Stormers. They handled the loss of Vermeulen quite well, but a team inevitably loses some of its momentum and other players end up having to work harder.
It’s probably debatable whether Vermeulen was really guilty of punching – it appeared as if he was trying to rid himself of an opponent who was holding onto him.
Fourie, however, was guilty of a blatant trip. Cooper then stretched the lead to 12-6 and the knockout blow came with a try from a five-metre scrum by centre Mike Harris.