Style of play comes back to haunt Stormers

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Over the past two seasons, the Stormers won numerous games with below-par performances but were always pleased with the outcome.

All too often, there were post-match utterances coming from the Stormers’ camp along the lines: “It doesn’t matter how we played or how we got it (a win)” or “It was ugly, but a win … winning is really important” or “It was ugly, but we’ll take it.”

In the run-in to the Qualifier clash against the Brumbies last weekend, the Stormers reiterated how successful they had been in recent years, after winning the SA Conference title in 2011, 2012 and 2015. Clearly, the Stormers’ top brass were overwhelmed by winning the SA title three times in five years.

There was, however, one mention of failing to win the Super Rugby trophy when departing coach Allister Coetzee said after last weekend’s game.

“We didn’t win the big one … the Super Rugby yet. I’ll leave that to the next guy (coach),” said Coetzee.

The Stormers have now lost four Super Rugby knockout games on the trot.

On Saturday, the Stormers went into the match without Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger who generally bring a hard edge to their game. They are also effective at holding their own in the loose and their experience is valuable when big-match temperament is vital.

In their absence, the Stormers lacked the physicality and that compounded the problems at breakdown time, when their ball was turned-over. On Saturday, it happened when the Brumbies’ tryline was in striking distance.

Coetzee pointed out that his team were missing Burger and Vermeulen on Saturday.

“We were outmuscled upfront against the Brumbies without Duane and Schalk. The majority of the Brumbies tries came from turnovers and we couldn’t get continuity because we lost the breakdown battle.”

The line-out has been a problem all season and on Saturday it again manifested itself, although there were promising signs when the Stormers made two early steals. Coetzee has said on numerous occasions that one player cannot be blamed for the problem, but on Saturday it seemed like the thrower could not master the basic of finding his jumper.

The Stormers have had the best scrum in the competition and it also secured a number of penalties which were converted into three-pointers during the season. They were not, however, able to use this platform to launch attacks effectively and that brings into question the ability of the coaches responsible for that aspect of their game. There are loads of attacking potential among the three-quarters but hardly has it been used to good effect.

The matter of an effective kicking game has never been addressed while the Stormers kept on winning. In flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, the Stormers had the world’s best kicker off the tee but they could never bank on out-of-hand kicks that troubled the opposition. When Seabelo Senatla and earlier Cheslin Kolbe arrived on the scene there was no chance of exploiting the kick chase either, the way Bryan Habana used to do it a few seasons ago.

Defence has traditionally been a Stormers’ strong point but that was not the case on Saturday, and for once their smaller-sized backs were unable to bring down their strong-running Brumbies counter-parts. On Saturday, the Stormers’ back three were also caught out of position on occasions, and when they scrambled on defence they were brushed aside with ease.

The role of Catrakilis as a matchwinner overshadowed his limitations as a flyhalf and that meant the backline were never able to play to their full potential. It is the one position that needs most attention when the Stormers start recruiting reinforcements.

Coetzee said both he and the players were disappointed with Saturday’s display. Given their performances in recent weeks, they could have seen it coming, as well as the Newlands ‘faithful’.

“This (the way we played) is definitely hurting. This is definitely not the way we pictured it would pan out,” said Coetzee.

The crowd of just under 29 000 was the smallest yet to attend a Super Rugby playoff at Newlands since the Stormers franchise came into being. It may have been their way of showing the Stormers that in spite of winning the SA Conference title, they were not happy with their style of play. - ANA

Original source: Style of play comes back to haunt Stormers

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