Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - Whatever
happened to that oft-stated desire by the bosses at Newlands for the Stormers
to recapture a “Western Province rugby” sort of attacking ethic?
seems to remain a pipe dream; all big talk.
months, it has been many years since the Western Cape outfit produced the kind
of crowd-pleasing, expressive and skill-laden fare that would all but fill the
time-honoured stadium - including at domestic Currie Cup level - on a
just another extremely costly, deeply frustrating modern instance where the
Stormers, in front of an unremarkable long-weekend crowd, did so much of the
groundwork (or read: murderous forward endeavour, for the most part) to tee up
a much-needed victory against the Brumbies.
slipped to a costly 19-17 Super Rugby setback against the similarly mid-table side,
despite governing two thirds of the territory and possession, and their
offensive game proving all too sterile, uncertain and lacking in cohesion.
It was a
swift, sobering correction after their Australasian tour drought-breaking triumph
over the Rebels last weekend, also meaning that they are rooted to the foot of
the SA conference instead of soaring to second, which would have been the case
with the right result against the grimly-motivated, heroic-defending visitors
scant consolation for Robbie Fleck’s charges is that the group only appears to
get more claustrophobic by the week: only four points now separate top (Bulls)
We will also
see the cat even more engulfed by pigeons should the Stormers bounce back – and
who’s to say they won’t, considering the bumpy, hard-to-read fortunes that
characterise almost all Super Rugby teams this year? - by beating the very
Bulls at Newlands next Saturday.
For that to
happen, though, the Capetonians may have to do so against mounting odds.
should be a pretty strong motivator, considering the unpalatable memories down
south of the 40-3 thrashing in the first-round encounter at Loftus.
Stormers also had to sweat blood in what was almost like an uncompromising Test
match against the Brumbies, and that after only returning from Australia a few
really have done with a bye immediately after the four-match tour but now,
having huffed and puffed to no avail in their first game back, must brace
themselves for an immensely energy-sapping fortnight against the Bulls and
Jaguares (in Buenos Aires) respectively before the overdue opportunity of a
the injury toll in the squad is mounting - they are using what might be branded
third-choice personnel in certain berths - and lock is an area where alarm
bells will be ringing especially loudly.
second-rowers against the Brumbies, Cobus Wiese and Salmaan Moerat, left the
field prematurely - after strong shifts - due to concussion-related issues,
simply meaning that they join the likes of Eben Etzebeth, JD Schickerling and
Chris van Zyl on the present side-lines.
pack stalwarts like Steven Kitshoff, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Bongi Mbonambi
must wonder, too, just what it is they are doing wrong (quick answer: it’s not
them) to end up on the losing side several times this season when they have
done so much to establish a platform for the altogether happier outcome.
forwards naturally play a far from inconsequential role in attacking play, too,
the Stormers continue to exhibit a rank inability to get their backline
functioning with any semblance of regular crispness and penetration.
reflected in the fact that one of their two tries against the Brumbies was an
open-to-discussion penalty one, and the other the result of an industrial maul.
are the lowest “points for” team in the competition at this point, with 180
posted from nine outings: that is an average of exactly 20 points per game (poor
for this often high-scoring tournament) and only they and the Waratahs (192)
have not yet gone beyond the 200-mark.
of personnel options also comes at a time when next week’s derby foes, by
contrast, have started to welcome back key figures like RG Snyman and Warrick
Gelant from injury.
will also be fresher, having come off their own Easter bye.
pundit and most-capped Springbok Victor Matfield also made the point,
post-match on Saturday, that if the Stormers were rattled by the Brumbies’
speed off the line, they might find the Bulls even more of a handful in that
He also suggested
they revisit their flyhalf plans, considering the looming threat of runaway Bok
first choice for the visiting cause, Handre Pollard.
nothing on attack for the Stormers … all one-off (runner) stuff. Josh Stander
was often too deep (at No 10) and I would like to see Damian Willemse get
another chance at flyhalf; he at least goes to the line.”
Next weekend’s fixtures (home teams
first, all kick-offs SA time):
Crusaders v Lions, 09:35; Sunwolves v Highlanders, 12:00. Saturday: Hurricanes
v Chiefs, 09:35; Waratahs v Sharks, 11:45; Stormers v Bulls, 15:05; Jaguares v
Brumbies, 23:40. Byes: Reds, Rebels, Blues.
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