Rob Houwing - Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – The
Stormers are leaving themselves with an ominous amount of strike-back work to
do in the second half of the Super Rugby season if they are to crack the nod
for the knockout phase.
latest setback in Brisbane, where they succumbed 24-12 to the similarly
no-great-shakes Reds, means they have netted a solitary log point from a
possible 15 on their Australasian trek so far, and remain winless from their
the closing game to follow next Friday against the currently high-riding Rebels
in Melbourne, there is a real danger of a repeat of last season’s main overseas
tour record, when they suffered a 0-3 sweep at the hands of, respectively, the
Waratahs, Crusaders and Highlanders on a shorter travel roster.
came up short in an all-New Zealand, three-game tour in 2017, although that was
also the last season in which they have reached the finals series, before quickly
exiting through a home quarter-final reverse to the Chiefs.
So the last
three seasons have truly dashed their once-proud reputation as happy, often
successful travellers abroad, even if Melbourne represents a last,
drought-breaking opportunity on this particular venture.
can upset the Dave Wessels-coached Rebels, they will come back to home shores,
at the halfway turn of ordinary season (eight matches), with a dangerously low
tally of points on the table – it is currently only 14 and may stay that way
for at least another match with their tiring, injury-depleted squad.
haul into the high teens before they get on the long-haul flight would be
important if they still hold significant hopes of making the eight-team
following: the Rebels, who ended an agonising ninth overall in last season’s
competition, couldn’t get through the gate then, even with 36 log points.
So if the
Stormers crash again in Melbourne and remain marooned on 14 -- or perhaps sneak
the tally to 15, by at least running their next hosts close -- at their midway
roster mark, they would require very pronounced improvement in fortunes in the
second portion of the campaign (possibly some 22 further points or thereabouts)
to reach the finals series.
still be borderline feasible, given that their overseas travel from the last 50
percent of their itinerary would be curtailed to a once-off visit to Buenos
Aires on May 4 to tackle the Jaguares, and with plenty of their all-SA matches
at home base of Newlands itself.
their present, crippling propensity for errors as they try to amass any sense
of continuity in their play – not to mention an ongoing battle to score tries
regularly -- Robbie Fleck’s charges look like dead certs for victory in
desperately few of their remaining matches.
Rebels are out of the way on Friday, they return for home matches against the
Brumbies, Bulls, Crusaders, Highlanders, Sunwolves and Sharks, and away ones against
the Jaguares and Lions.
They did at
least cross the whitewash twice in Brisbane (through Kobus van Dyk and a
livelier this week Springbok centre Damian de Allende) but their defence was
also fractured three times – including on a costly two occasions while captain
Siya Kolisi experienced a spell in the sin bin.
his co-coaches might well have torn their hair out, too, when scrumhalf Tate
McDermott wriggled over for the Reds’ third, arguably game-killing try in the
67th minute after taking a quick tap and catching several Stormers
players astonishingly asleep on their feet.
more demoralizingly, there was a carbon copy from substitute SP Marais of his
late blunder off the kicking tee against the Blues, as he botched a
straightforward conversion near the finish that would have taken the Stormers
into the terrain -- at the time, anyway -- of a losing bonus point.
counters at embattled Newlands will be praying that the pockmarked troops can
somehow concoct a win recipe against the Rebels, to provide some semblance of
Capetonian optimism for the solid run of home matches and a bit of much-needed
interest at the booking office.
hold your breath on that one?
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