Stormers: Old doubts swirl

2011-02-26 22:33

Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – Both of the finalists in last year’s Super 14 seem strangely hell-bent on losing early games in the revamped Super Rugby ... somehow, they also aren’t succeeding.

The Bulls have now squeezed out consecutive nail-biters against the Lions and Cheetahs, while on Saturday night the runners-up of 2010, the Stormers, extended the trend in their belated opener by breaking Johannesburg hearts all over again in a 19-16 bone-cruncher at Newlands.

So once again the vastly improved Lions had to settle for a losing bonus point after an enthralling yet also sometimes ragged and chaotic contest.

Franco van der Merwe’s troops may lack some truly stellar names but spirit pumps through their veins and even after the Stormers notched their lone, game-turning try from a hallmark maul off a lineout in the 75th minute, they refused to raise any white flag.

Indeed, the most captivating passage of play in the entire match came just before and then for some four minutes or so after the siren as they rumbled and rumbled and rumbled from a daunting position near their own try-line to transfer play dramatically into the home quarter before umpteen phases came to no reward.

The ball was eventually gratefully scrambled out of play as SuperSport commentator Matthew Pearce so rightly noted: “That fly-hack (into touch) by Conrad Jantjes will go down as one of the most important of his career.”

Uncompromising Lions coach John Mitchell had reiterated in the press before the game that he isn’t interested in gutsy defeats for his charges, but he will also know deep down that the Stormers, missing their injured captain Schalk Burger for the entire second half, showed strong “BMT” in upping their continuity and intensity levels at a crucial juncture to steal the spoils from under the Highvelders’ noses.

Earlier, there had been generous passages of play in which many long-suffering Newlands supporters would have shifted uncomfortably in their seats and begun to wonder whether an old Achilles’ heel – an inability of a Stormers or Western Province tight five to establish a consistent foothold – was back to plague the cause in 2011.

That may yet prove to be the case, because the hosts had “issues” in the scrums, where Stuart Dickinson often penalised loosehead prop CJ van der Linde. (Isn’t the burly Springbok better deployed at his more familiar No 3?)

And Deon Fourie, the second-choice Stormers hooker who must carry Tiaan Liebenberg’s burden for several more weeks whilst the senior man recuperates, didn’t help at lineout time by struggling to gel with key jumpers like Andries Bekker.

At least Rynhardt Elstadt, one of several young guns being blooded at this level, showed commendable fire and energy as Bekker’s lock partner, even if this endeavour was evident more in an open play context.

Perhaps there was great significance, too, in the Stormers looking unusually disorganised in the first half, when the high tempo and ferocity of the Lions’ onslaught seemed to catch them off-guard, and then gradually establishing a belated foothold in the second 40 minutes.

As backline coach Robbie Fleck reminded on television during the interval: “It’s tough having a bye on the first weekend.”

The Stormers also so nearly paid a heavy price, I fancy, for not really having put out a genuine A-team at any stage during their pre-season activity -- though with some pretty “creative” selections for this opener it is a little hard to fathom precisely what their truest A-side actually is at present.

On the plus side, Peter Grant came off the bench for some 20 important minutes at flyhalf and hardly looked a man coated in rust from his Japanese sojourn, so some assuring “seniority” will in all likelihood return to a key channel when the Cheetahs visit Newlands next weekend.
Mind you, hot-and-cold debutant Gary van Aswegen showed some decent touches before Grant’s entry to proceedings, including a surprising zest for crunching defence.

Where to now for the Lions, clearly busy restoring some pride to their badge yet sitting on a nought-from-two record in the SA conference?

They threw the kitchen sink at both the Bulls and Stormers – bearded flank Josh Strauss was a revelation from first whistle to last in the latest encounter – and there must be some danger that they will thus be vulnerable to defeat again when they play the Blues in a Friday-nighter, which curbs their recovery time a bit.

But there is real hope nevertheless for a brighter future, isn’t there?


  • KlaarGepraat - 2011-02-26 23:11

    Stormers completely outplayed the Lions tonight - the jokers from Jozi were lucky to come so close. You could see the fear on Elton's face everytime Schalk ran at him. Sixteen losses in a row, pathetic! Bring the Kings, I say! Stormers and Waratahs the teams to beat this year.

      Johan - 2011-02-26 23:36

      Lang seisoen wat wag...don't talk so soon...if we where watching the same game....the Stormers had to work quite hard tonight for their win....Big up to them...frustrating to the Lions

      Aitsa - 2011-02-27 00:44

      As a Stormers fan myself, I wonder what you've been smokin'.

      CliffBradley - 2011-02-27 06:28

      Ek moes 3 keer my onderklere verander in 90 min gisteraand !!!! Miskien het ek n ander wedstryd gekyk , Ons was gelukkig !!

      Totman - 2011-02-27 07:52

      "Jou onderrok hang uit"!!!!. If the Lions had a better kicker you would have still having a babbalas, form the "papsak," that you drowned your sorrows with.......and I am saying this out of Stormers's country. To the Lions, thank you for a good enjoyable performance. We are grateful you could not get your 2 and 3 pointers.

      Anti Tokkie - 2011-02-27 08:17

      i think the fear was in you esp in the last 3 minutes or so ......? hou op gedroogte snoek rook asb its bad for you

      CM - 2011-02-27 09:57

      Did u even watch the game dingbat?

      Vincent - 2011-02-27 10:24

      Are you sure you are not a bulls fan trying to stir shit? Lions are a brilliant team and played well. Stormers struggled.

      Mark - 2011-02-27 10:30

      @KlaarGepraat a a Lion supporter i say congratulations to the Stormers, but the only pathetic thing is, the unintelligent dribble you and your ilk scribble.

      Kean Kurajas - 2011-02-27 13:23

      @Klaargepraat: Rubbish comment man.

      mike - 2011-02-27 14:03

      Sorry KlaarGepraat but the Lions were the better team they just really don't know how to win. Stormers were as useless as the Bulls have been in there 2 games. But a win is a win and the Lions have to go back to the drawing board and find themselves the confidence and or belief needed to close these games out. Once they find that they going to be a tough side to beat.

      Zangetsu - 2011-02-28 07:58

      As a Stormers Die-hard fan i have to say KlaarGepraat you talk out your ass. the lions actually deserved to win that game. they played better and their discipline was a lot better then the Stormers. The stormers are now making a habit of coming from behind to win. which could be a good omen for if we make finals again this year. the lions will beat the Blues. because it is now become a team effort to win

      Paul - 2011-02-28 14:23

      @ Klaargepraat ... lol ...chop ...your team was only lucky the ref was on your side ... We made your bunch of losers look stupid ... 2 finals last year and your team lost both ...this year they will not even make the semis ...FOOL!!!!!

  • gpwengineer - 2011-02-26 23:57

    Please put January and Habana on the bench. Habana is playing without any soul. I watching the match live at Newlands today and Habana stood on the touch line for most of the game, hands on his side. He does not even follow up on kicks like he use to. He justs kicks it and jogs towards the ball. Ricky January was hopeless today. He is too fat and unfit. He needs to be sidelined. I hope he does not make the springbok team because he is certainly not on form.

      xperdt - 2011-02-27 00:20

      banana was never that good...or was he?? Everybody looks good next to fouriedupreez??! Run with the best, and you’ll become one, sit with the wise and you’ll become...shout for the bulls and you’ll become a champ! I hope??

      Viperbul - 2011-02-27 08:48

      January and Habana both think to much of themselves..... January the "I will hit the gap and score like in New Zealand" is so past it, I dont think even history can keep up. As for Habanna.... I think they play him cause they bought him. How can one put this...... he is such a legend, but busy throwing t all away. He has to retire and save what is left of his reputation. He plays like a school boy without a clue..... Stormers played ok and not bad for first game of the season. Things will get better. Get rid of January and Habana COMPLETEY (not even on the bench as even that is to good for them). I hear Buffelmeteenskootdoogeskietfontein is looking for a 9 and 11 in their 3rd team - Hurry Ricky and Bryan, you may still make that one!

      Vincent - 2011-02-27 10:25

      @xperdt. What are you smoking? Fourie Du Preez is not as good as you think he is. Very over rated. I rate Hougaard a better scrumhalf

      TheDuck - 2011-02-28 16:53

      @Vincent. Are you on drugs? Fourie Du Preez has been the world's best player for the past two years. He's in another league!

      TheDuck - 2011-02-28 16:54

      @Vincent. Are you on drugs? Fourie Du Preez has been the world's best player for the past two years. He's in another league!

  • Mike@CapeT - 2011-02-27 00:09

    Rob, I think you are being a bit harsh on the Stormers. I was never confident that they were going to 'walk' this game....against a team that had already played 80 minutes (with a great 40 minutes!). And so it proved to be. The Stormers certainly were rusty, but brilliant in patches and although young Aswegan did not disgrace himself (in fact, I thought he was petty good!), Peter Grants class was there for all to see, when he eventually came on.

      CliffBradley - 2011-02-27 06:30


      Mike@CapeT - 2011-02-27 07:39

      On last nights performance, he deserves to be the understudy!

      Totman - 2011-02-27 07:57

      Thanks Cliff. All respect to Gary, but that was a big start up mistake. Coetzee is having the same uncertainness with the centers.

      rob - 2011-02-27 08:14

      Stormers will be fine when Aplon and Anton van Zyl are back, Tim Whitehead on the bench,(he's a great distributor) and a new scrummie. Aplon either at full back or wing.

      Wondering1 - 2011-02-27 18:25

      Mike, I agree. Thought van Aswegan was actually pretty good. Made a few mistakes but thats cool. Peter Grant's class was very evident.

      Wondering1 - 2011-02-27 18:28

      Also when January went off, Stormers backline looked much better

  • Hein - 2011-02-27 04:59

    klaarGepraat = Balsak????

  • jean.rossouwsa - 2011-02-27 06:28

    As die Stormers sukkel in Kaapstad gaan hulle JHB nie laaaaaaik nie.

  • markwmilligan - 2011-02-27 06:59

    I think they should start with duvenhage and Grant. Januarie is so slow. Van Aswegan is no where near the class of Peter Grant. I think Francois has a big chip on his shoulder and is really out of form and we should start with Pieter Louw - there is no one who gives more of himself in a game like Pieter Louw does.

      Oukoos - 2011-02-27 07:18

      Van Pieter Louw gepraat - enige ander span sal hul linkerbal gee om hom in hul beginspan te hê. Maar ons mors hom op die reserwebank. Maak net nie sin nie.

      Mike@CapeT - 2011-02-27 07:45

      Age is catching up with Januarie, he is slow and cumbersome. Pieter Louw is great however, I suspect his ability to come on as an impact player is proving to be his strongpoint. I just wonder whether he would make the same impact if he was a 'run on' player....but he deserves the chance!

      RJ - 2011-02-27 07:54

      What you talking Peter Louw will start it's a long season Francois will come to the party...Van Aswegan was good what you on about... Must say Duvenage and De jong was also good whan they came on. All in all it was a gutsy performance and Stormers making it a habit

      Totman - 2011-02-27 08:00

      He is one off the best quiet workers in that team for years.

      Martin - 2011-02-27 12:56

      Well said Mark, I always preferred Pieter Louw and that Sadie centre is scoring in every match he plays, should play from bench.

  • BardofAvon - 2011-02-27 07:40

    Wow, what an amazing coincidence! I noticed one of the Stormers players was called Ricky January. I remember a player by that name from some years ago, also in the scrum half position (and who also played for WP, if memory serves). Astonishing!

  • RJ - 2011-02-27 07:43

    Well done guy's as usual it goes down right to the wire, Glad I was not at the stadium, to watch those last 4 minutes after the 80min... Well done to Elton poophol kept us in the game with he's Jonny wilkinson wanaB...Can't we swop Taute for Jantjies And Simange what you doing in the commentators box? Deon is good but you could have played.

  • Claude - 2011-02-27 07:53

    I have always been a Habana fan but last nights game raises serious doubts about his fitness, speed and enthusiasm for the game. He better step up to the plate real soon or he must be in danger of loosing his place. I hope he does not become like January who despite poor performance seems untouchable.

      Viperbul - 2011-02-27 10:17

      I agree. Habanna is so passed it its scary! He needs to step down I think as he has been farting along for the whole of last season, and it does not look like he still has what it takes. His decision making is pathetic!! I guess they play him cause they bought him and dont want to admit their mistake. January is antoher to go now. I heard that Buffelsfontein are looking for a number 9 and 11 in their 3rd team, hurry boys, you may make that team!

  • Dan - 2011-02-27 08:59

    Stormers still has a seriou sneed for some hard men in the engine room. Without Schalk, the team has nothing to offer when things get physical. Finals of competitions never ever goes to teams trying to play Aussie rule type of pissy rugby and teams actually don't play that way in finals anyway. Even the mighty All Black always revert back to powerful tight rugby in finals - espacially knockout rounds in world cups. The Stormers just never ever learn. Thought Bekker was absolutely pathetic yeasterday. Worth nothing up front and couldn't even do his primary task of taking lineout ball. He was totally outplayed by the Lions captain. Vermeulen is also way to brainless and belongs back in the 1980's type of rugby. Pity that such a talented team has been struggling for the past 10 years due to one or two critical shortcomings in the pack.

  • Cicero - 2011-02-27 09:01

    If Elton could only kick better at goal, the Lions could be amongst the first four on the log. You can not compete in a competition like this by missing 3 or 4 kicks per match. If Alistair Coetzee persists with van Aswegen to start at No.10, John Mitchell should make an offer to Peter Grant!

      RJ - 2011-02-27 09:42

      and alister for TAUTE

      BardofAvon - 2011-02-27 15:30


  • Wow! - 2011-02-27 09:31

    What a game. This Lions team are going to win games this year.

      darkwing - 2011-02-27 11:22

      As a Bulls supporter, I agree with you. They really threw it away and they need a goal kicker desperately. It's good when all our teams look on par. One of them must take the trophy. I just wonder if these two tournaments one after the other is not going to damage southern hemisphere's sides chances in the World Cup.

  • scud - 2011-02-27 09:37

    you guys wont believe me,but I have just spent the last few weeks in Australia.I am a supporter of the Stormers,and the Bull are my second team. Watch the Waratahs-they have got it all this year.

      ae.remote - 2011-02-27 12:33

      How can any self respecting individual claim to be a Stormers fan and then announce the Bulls are their 'second team'!! You simply can't like both!

      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-02-27 12:55

      Exactly, it's like saying you vote DA (Stormers), yet you admire the ANC (Bulls..)

      ASDEB - 2011-02-27 13:03

      You are right, I don't believe you!

  • coenie.koch - 2011-02-27 10:06

    Why don't Alistair Coetzee just get to the point and send January and Habana packing before we start losing games because of them! And at the same time he can warn Conrad Jantjies that he also shouldn't feel too secure at no 15. Aplon will be a better choice seeing that we have other players more than capable to perform well on wing ( both sides! ). If Alistair really ask the Bulls nicely, they might consider taking Habana back to carry v/d Heever's bags.

  • SAFFA-CAT - 2011-02-27 10:15

    The great news STORMER fans, is that we WON a close game (we usually lose those.....) I'll take the 4 frikkin points, and start praying that Bash and Duvenage start next week.......

  • Mark - 2011-02-27 10:54

    @KlaarGepraat as a Lions supporter, i say congratulations to the stormers, but the unitelligent dribble you scribble is "PATHETIC"

  • Jack - 2011-02-27 10:55

    I thought Habana had a good game. He looked for work, his defence was tight. The problem with his play is that he never gets good backline ball like he did at the Bulls. If you have a weapon you must use it. The Stormers hardly ever get the ball to the wings. They have to come looking for it. Sorry CTN guys, but a fact is a fact - the Stormers had the highest kicking percentage in Super rugby last year. That whole Cape running rugby story is a myth. Last night the Lions showed how running rugby is played. I'm a Bulls supporter and I was sorry when Habana left us, but you guys down there have squandered his talent. And now you complain. Last year was you bite at the cherry, and you blew it. Now shut up!

      Viperbul - 2011-02-27 11:08

      ag no seriously!! He had a shocker like every other game. We have not squandered his talent, he was already passed it when he left for the white sands of Clifton! Cape Town has turned into a rugby retirement home....... Stormers can still go all the way, but need to drop January and Habanna. Also, they need to have a talk to de Villiers (not on form) and Jantjes.

      RJ - 2011-02-27 11:52

      Last year we had De WAAL thr... This year will be different .... MYTH my @ss... Everybody will watch the stormers games because it's just plain a lekker DING.

      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-02-27 11:54

      Why then are the Bulls Union actively paying for and recruiting high school kids from the Cape? Read The Rapport my crunchie....and you will see how much VALUE your union put on rugby players from my valleys. Paying kids to move up north - smacks of desperation you human traffickers. SIES. Breed your own players, or admit that the Cape has the CREAM :)

      mike - 2011-02-27 14:19

      Really, recruiting youngsters for there acedamy is now human trafficing. You do know that this happens in every professional sport played world wide. I think you need to grow up Saffa and stop crying becuase your union is crap and no one wants to play for them when they get the chance to play for a championship side!

  • Stompies - 2011-02-27 11:09

    Die Bulle (weg) en die Stormers (tuis) het amper verloor, nie omdat hulle sleg gespeel het nie, maar omdat hulle teen twee baie goeie spanne opdraande gekry het. Gee die Bulls net kans om op hulle tuisveld hulle selfvertoue en momentum te kry dan sal jy 'n ander span sien!

      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-02-27 11:56

      Do you think Spies's dropgoal attempt would have been succesful had the game been played at Loftus?

      mike - 2011-02-27 13:58

      One thing I only realised after the game is that the drop gaol from Spies was actually the right move. He was alone at the back with no support and a strong defensive line closing in on him. So he drop kicks, ball goes dead and Cheetahs have to kick it back to us with a team now ready to counter. I also moaned when he did it live but then watched again only to realise it was a genius move. Well done Spies nice to know you a thinker too. He had a much better game the last week too so his form is coming along nicely.

      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-02-27 14:04

      Earth to there water on Jupiter?

      mike - 2011-02-27 14:10

      So Saffa-Cat, what would you have had him do in that situation? Please do tell since you obviously an expert? Run back get tackled and risk a turnover, or worse a penalty. Tell me what was the end result in him taking that kick? he managed to keep the Cheetahs under presure. I think you should take a trip to Jupiter since you obviously a space cadet!

  • John - 2011-02-27 12:16

    Right so we came second again, but we are still behind you Mitch, try Rory to start

      mike - 2011-02-27 14:01

      I believe Kocket has to start, he is a better decision maker then Vermaak and he can take over the goal kicking, Elton has cost you guys big time already, get a better goal kicker on the field and you will start winning these games.

  • Showahed - 2011-02-27 13:28

    As a diehard Stormer myself, my 2 cents worth: So far all teams seem have a problem with the scrum calls by the refs - some more so than others. Has it got something to do with the refs rather than the packs ability to get their timing right? Last night a draw would have been ok considering how hard the Lions tried. And yes, as some of you mentioned, some of the Stormer players are lucky to be in the team...maybe for the same reason JP Pietersen plays for the Sharks - he stands around with his fat @rse for the entire game, then scores one try and will be in the team for the rest of the season as a result. Finally, I do not think my team will have the same success this year. Sorry.

      RJ - 2011-02-27 14:49

      You not a diehard fan if you don't believe in your team. Forget the same success we gona go 1 BIGGER Champions

      Ragged-Tooth - 2011-02-27 17:41

      Get your midfield sorted and you'll have the best backline in this comp. Duvenhage (not the best by far but sure beats vetkoek), Grant, Juan de Jongh, Jacques Fourie. As for your light 5......still a long way to go before they become a force to be reckoned with.

  • Raymond - 2011-02-27 17:52

    As a Stormer,I have to admit that we were ouplayed in some phases of the game and we were found wanting at times.The Lions are really a formidable and much improved side from last year and one has to give them credit for both games they have played where they mighty unlucky to lose because of poor goal kicking.One must also take into account that the Stormers played a side that already had one game under the belt so yes,maybe we were a bit lucky to come away with a win but I have also seen us lose games where the opposition were lucky.That is sport,there will always be winners and losers,we'll beat them and they will beat us.

  • Selwyn - 2011-02-27 20:45

    Mitchell is an excellent coach,but lacks 4 aspects,which was evident,when he coached the Force,in Australia.Please let him contact me to explain,and then his =LIONS WILL BE INVINCIBLE.

      meatusx - 2011-02-28 04:36

      Mitchell had one big problem here in WA....Money!!!...he had limited funds and some of his top players went to ACT and NSW. He's got funds now Mate, and you watch out, the lions are gonna be a force to recon with. My predictions are that the lions are gonna adopt a Aussie style game where play is focused round back line attack. Only this time you have the backing of proper South African Forwards. Which if you think of it is the only factor Australian rugby lacks "good strong forwards" I am a passionate Sharks supporter and I'm afraid that the Lions are getting game time now to settle in their new ways, by the time the Sharks play them they gonna be destructive. However, I must say the Sharks impressed me with their back line against the Blues.

  • stoffel - 2011-02-27 21:12

    Well done to the stormers for refusing to lie down in this match, and to the lions, well played and thanks for your contribution to a very entertaining game of rugby, your run of 16 successive losses will surely be ending soon, hopefully within the next week. We can all see this lions team is on the up and that's good for SA rugby. To Allister Coetzee and Rassie Erasmus, you can start Peter Grant at 10 from now on and please play Ricky off the bench in the last 20 minutes, then his lack of speed might not be as much of a drawback after his opponents have already played for 60 minutes.

  • meatusx - 2011-02-28 04:28

    Give credit to the Lions, they played well, but lost some steam early second half...Stormers played their first game so they were allowed to be rusty. Good thing though, they still managed to win. The big positive is that South African Teams seam to be matched equally. As a Sharks supporter I was a bit critical last week as it seemed like the Bulls were the only team with an organized attacking back line. And looking at super 15 tries highlights Aus and NZ teams have brilliant back line play. BUT Hell!!!! Did the Sharks Back line outplay the Blues or what?? Have a look at the Lions back line style...Flat accurate passing, two centers switching over and under, forward pod dummy running...Typical Aussie back line worried if they gonna start to perfect it...mark my words.

  • Buffel - 2011-02-28 07:56

    Grootbek Lions het hulle gat gesien! Elton sucks big time...I'm a huge STORMER but i take my hat off to the Sharks Laatie Pat Lambie what a future he is going to have with SA Rugby or will he be stopped in the tracks by Elton because his skin has got a better tint to it! LIONS SUCKS & WILL SUCK FOREVER you cant buy a whole new team a think you will win, you need the development assholes!

  • kyktweekeer - 2011-02-28 09:12

    Stormies, you were very, very know it and you still need to convince us that you have it what it takes to become champs- either Currycup or Supperugby champs, that is. (P.S., Victor Matfield can tell you all about BMT and palying like champs- Loftus Versveld Kirkness street, Pretoria this coming Tuesday 10h00. see you there!)

      Shistirrer - 2011-02-28 10:17

      Yes we know we were very lucky. But if you are good, you make your own luck, like the Stormers did. May I also remind you that the Bulls have also been extremely lucky in TWO matches now. If the first match vs the Lions had lasted 5 minutes longer, the Bulls would have been in deep shite. So far, the Bulls have failed to impress, and heaven forbid if you have any injuries, because there is NO DEPTH.

      Mike@CapeT - 2011-02-28 11:17

      Agree with you Shistirrer!

      Oukoos - 2011-02-28 14:40

      I agree that we were lucky. With their quality of play even the Cheetahs would have given us a hiding. We were extremely lucky to play against a weak team. I am, however, confident that the Stormers will up their game going forward. I disagree about a lack of BGT. In fact, the Stormers never gave up and forced a win against all odds. It was rather a lack of BGT by J&J (Jano & Jantjies) and it cost them the game

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