Vodacom Super Rugby
Stormers out to bounce back
Cape Town - It was the day that the management of the DHL Stormers always feared might come and which they half anticipated – the day that the previously unblemished march through the early stages of the Super Rugby season was finally brought to a grinding halt.
For the Stormers the fact that their 19-6 defeat to the Reds came at Newlands should be the most disturbing aspect. It effectively means that one of the two good away wins against the Sharks and Bulls is cancelled out, and suddenly, after 13 months of being unbeaten there, Fortress Newlands doesn’t look quite the impenetrable obstacle for visiting teams that it was shaping to become.
That should please teams like the Sharks and the Crusaders, who have visits to Cape Town in their immediate future. What should also please both teams was the way the Reds exposed the Stormers by playing the Stormers’ game and how the shaky Stormers first-phase play, something that has been a problem all season, was finally capitalised upon by an opposition team.
That this was allowed to happen was down to two factors – firstly the Reds from the outset made it known that their intention was to dominate the Stormers in the collisions and attack them at the breakdowns, and secondly they had a field kicking game that was just on a different planet to a Stormers team that found it nearly impossible to get out of their own half.
Almost 70 percent of the game was played in Stormers territory, and in some ways the game was a repeat of last year’s first Stormers defeat of the season to the Brumbies at the same venue.
The loss should not be seen as a train smash by the Stormers, for after all it came after seven matches in the competition. They are still comfortably on top of the South African conference. However what it does do is increase the importance of this coming weekend’s trip to Johannesburg for the match against the Lions, the last Stormers fixture before they take their second bye over the Easter weekend.
“I don’t want to see this as a blessing. It certainly hurts, and we’ve got to take lessons from this one,” said Stormers coach Allister Coetzee afterwards.
“What is important to me at the moment is the question of how this Stormers side will react to this defeat. We have been in situations like this before, where the Brumbies beat us here, and we came back strongly the following week. The next game we got our first bonus point win, and that’s the reaction I want to see when we go up to the Lions next weekend.”
Given how much of the game they had, the Reds could well have won by a bigger margin by 13 points, and it is a tribute to the Stormers defensive system that they were able to keep their team in the game until the 35th minute, when a five metre scrum was awarded to the Reds because a Stormers finger touched a Quade Cooper failed drop-goal attempt that went over the dead ball line.
One of the things that the Stormers are going to have to address this week is their discipline, for it was having two players off at crucial stages of the game that effectively was the difference on the day. The Reds were the better team, but the Stormers could still have won had Duane Vermeulen and Deon Fourie not been yellow carded for silly misdemeanours.
The Stormers were also not helped by the late change which saw Jean de Villiers sit out, with the team appearing to lack rythmn at the back, though it was not as if it was at the back that the Stormers lost it.
De Villiers is expected to be up for selection for this week’s game, with Coetzee confident that his groin injury would have responded well enough for him to come back into the frame.