Cape Town - The disappointment of a frustratingly narrow loss to the Brumbies should be off-set for the Stormers by the knowledge that two of their star players will be back for their next Super 14 match against the Highlanders.
GALLERY: Super 14 Round 3
Saturday evening’s game has assumed extra importance now for the Stormers following the loss to the Brumbies, which came about because of a moment of sheer madness with two minutes to go, with a wild pass from prop Brok Harris near his own 22 being intercepted by the Brumbies for what was the winning score.
Home games are critical in this competition, and the Stormers need to get back on track immediately if they are to sustain their challenge. They will fancy their chances of doing so against the Highlanders with Schalk Burger returning from injury to lead the team and Wicus Blaauw’s destructive scrummaging also being available again.
The last mentioned return might be even more significant than the first. The Stormers have not scrummed badly over the past few weeks, but in Blaauw’s absence they have lacked the destructive edge that made the Western Province scrum such a handful in the last Currie Cup season.
The Highlanders scrummed well against the feared Cheetahs unit this past weekend, so the scrumming contest could be a crucial feature of Saturday night’s game.
Burger left the field in the 23rd minute of the Waratahs match with a hamstring ‘twinge’. Although they missed his physicality against the Brumbies, Pieter Louw has been outstanding in his absence and is starting to look the part of a young Rassie Erasmus. He scored the only Stormers try against the Brumbies, and could easily have scored another that was disallowed by the TMO early in the game.
Unfortunately for Louw and the Stormers, the seventh minute effort had to be denied for though only millimetres of touch in goal touched the ball when he grounded it, it only requires one millimetre to be touching the ball for the try to be disallowed.
It was that sort of match for the Stormers. Of the two teams, they definitely created more opportunities, but they were denied by plain bad luck and also some poor decision making, such as when inside centre Juan de Jongh elected to kick left when Jaques Fourie was on his right and unmarked with the tryline within striking distance.
The key for the Stormers now is for them to try and forget about the Brumbies game, and having the captain back will be a step in the right direction for them.
“It is always good to have your captain back,” said coach Allister Coetzee.
The Stormers were beaten in the tactical kicking game against the Brumbies, and after the first 20 minutes, there weren’t enough occasions where they were able to set themselves up for an attack within the Australian team’s 22.
However, Coetzee says he is unlikely to recall Willem de Waal just yet as he feels the former Cheetahs flyhalf needs a few more games for the Western Province Vodacom Cup team to recover his confidence after recovering from a serious neck operation.