Cape Town - Given what was on the line, with the prospect of touring with dented morale if they lost, it was understandable that Stormers coach Robbie Fleck looked immensely relieved after his team’s 28-20 win over the Jaguares.
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The Stormers started well and in the first half they had enough opportunities to win the game. Fleck believes they should have put the Jaguares away when Raymond Rhule scored his first try in Stormers colours straight after the break, but then what he viewed as early season rustiness made itself felt as the hosts became sloppy and discordant in the second half. It resulted in the Jaguares coming back strongly and pressing for the win in the final minutes, when they trailed by just five points before a Damian Willemse penalty settled the result.
“I think that to say that we just left too many points on the table in that first half would be an understatement,” said Fleck.
“Our finishing just let us down in that first half. Perhaps it was rustiness, which is to be expected, and we have also had a lot of injuries that have forced a lot of late changes over the past few weeks. We also elected to play only two pre-season games and perhaps we felt that today. It will work for us later on though.
“I thought that in the second half we were guilty of making the wrong decision. We had so much reward in the first half by keeping the ball in hand, but in the second half we forgot that script. We ended up leaving a lot out there.”
But a win is a win, as the old saying goes, and as skipper Siya Kolisi pointed out, just getting the points for the victory was the be all and end all for the Stormers before heading off on a tour that will see them play the Waratahs in Sydney this coming Saturday before they clash with two recent Super Rugby champion teams, Crusaders and Highlanders, in Christchurch and Dunedin respectively.
“I think in some ways it was a good thing that the game ended up being close. We did well to fight under pressure,” said Kolisi.
“All the focus this week was on what we were working on and we didn’t worry too much about the opposition. The focus was just on getting the win and we got that. It was very important to get the win today.”
Fleck said that while there was clearly lots to work on, his overall assessment was a fairly satisfactory one.
“We showed great character to get out of the hole we had dug for ourselves as the Jaguares got energised by their penalty try and they came at us strongly in that last quarter,” said Fleck.
We showed amazing character in resisting them at defensive scrums when we were down on numbers (because of the yellow carding of hooker Ramone Samuels), and then when we added (centre) Damian de Allende to the scrum we were able to turn it around.
“You have to understand we had only seven men in those first few scrums before we decided to add Damian. It was a young pack. We had Dean Muir on for his first game as a replacement at hooker and also Carlu Sadie (tighthead prop) was playing his first Super Rugby game. Of course, under that sort of pressure mistakes will be made, but we did well to get out of it and it would have been a good experience for the young players.”
The Stormers flew out to Australasia on Sunday without Bongi Mbonambi, who was a late withdrawal before the game after undergoing an emergency appendix operation. However, apart from the yellow card infraction late in the game, Fleck felt Ramone Samuels did well as Mbonambi’s replacement in the No 2 jersey, while on the basis of the time he spent on the field, there could be a big future for young Dean Muir.
“Dean had a really good pre-season and was tough not including him in our squad. A lot of the other players felt for him when he was left out and were pleased when he was called up for this game. He works incredibly hard which was why the boys were chuffed for him. He deserves it.
“I thought Ramone did well. We did miss an early lineout but then Ramone also took the brave option there. He could have just been safe and thrown to the front. I thought later on he found his jumpers well with long balls. It wasn’t an easy game for him as he was only called in to start as a late replacement and we spent most of the week working with Bongi as the starting hooker.”
Monambi will miss the three match tour, which offers Samuels an extended chance to start in the No 2 jersey and Muir to build more experience, although a tour of New Zealand is a tough place to find your feet.
Fleck confirmed that prop Wilco Louw was taken off as a precautionary measure and he was part of the group that flew out of Cape Town on Sunday, as was Pieter-Steph du Toit, the Springbok lock who missed the opening match against the Jaguares because of injury. SP Marais, last year’s first choice fullback, was also in the group after recovering from injury.
Stormers touring squad
Nizaam Carr, Damian de Allende, Jan de Klerk, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Dewaldt Duvenage, JJ Engelbrecht, JC Janse van Rensburg, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi (captain), Dillyn Leyds, Wilco Louw, SP Marais, Dean Muir, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Caylib Oosthuizen, Justin Phillips, Raymond Rhule, Carlu Sadie, Ramone Samuels, JD Schickerling, Seabelo Senatla, Kobus van Dyk, Chris van Zyl, EW Viljoen, George Whitehead, Cobus Wiese, Damian Willemse.
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