So the Stormers began the new season like they ended last season, with a loss.
There was much hope and excitement of the Rassie Erasmus era beginning at Newlands. He came with some credibility due to the Cheetahs being domestic champions for the past couple of years, but a closer inspection of his Super 14 record with the same team also illustrates that the newly hailed messiah that has had the Cape media writing flowery pieces that the Stormers were finally ready to deliver on the promise they have on paper, have come to naught.
The first half did show glimpses that for a change the Stormers might have a plan and it yielded 9 points via three Peter Grant penalties, although a few try scoring opportunities went beckoning. With five minutes to go, the Bulls started regaining the ascendancy they had shown in the opening minutes of the fixture at the contact point which resulted in flyer Bryan Habana crossing for the only try of the match.
The second half for the home team had me recalling the general incompetence of the team in past seasons, to often our the first receiver was either Burger or Watson, fine if they intend to carry the ball up strongly, but too often they stepped back into the traffic or shuffled it down the back-line leaving precious little space or time for the backs to show their supposed creative flair. They looked to get rid of possession instead of retaining it and the Bulls took the chance and the ball offered by the home team and ground them into submission. The Bulls relentless pressure forced the home team in to numerous unforced errors which only added to their crumbling resolve and resulted in the Bulls being able to slot three Hougaard penalties and take the game away from the home team.
The Stormers only have themselves to blame, they turned the ball over at will, they stopped attacking the gain line and went sideways but more importantly the pack which had performed so well in the first half went from being a collective to a bunch of individuals.
There were a few highlights, Liebenburg had a good game in the set-pieces and in the loose, Mujati, bar the very first scrum, added some steel to the front row. The second row did their basics, but not much more. Burger aside from a late shoulder charge that will have him on the bin in no time when he meets a ref not quite as lenient as Roos was on foul play, was his usual self. Louw on debut, put in a solid performance and deserves a run at seven. The new ELV’s made Watson look fantastic off the back of scrum, and he was his usual self in loose play, but to often he is at first receiver and a worrying trend that he thinks himself a bit of kicker, a problem endemic in the Stormers back-line. It seems to be spreading.
Jean as a captain i feel is a concern, his decision to have Grant take a shot at poles from inside his own half when he had come up short on one from within the Bulls half made me wonder about his abilities to lead this team. That and more often than not he shoveled the ball wide with little regard for those on his outside. A return to form is sorely needed for someone who hasn’t been the same since 2003 when he was belatedly selected for the World Cup only to be injured and miss the tournament.
Ricky didn’t convince me that his salary is money well spent just yet, but at the same time nor did he really play badly. It appears under the new ELV’s – the scrummies job is going to be to clear the ball a lot quicker – something he will have to work on, but his lack of performance in the second half could easily be attributed to the poor protection the Stormers offered the ball. Ricky is talented and certainly offers a lot more resolve at the base than seen in previous seasons at Newlands, something the free kick nature of the ELV’s will require.
Grant, aside from not kicking the ball out on a penalty, was decent but not awe-inspiring – i expect Rassie will be hoping for more from Grant in the coming weeks. Both wings were anonymous. Aplon had a couple of good counter attacking runs. Bobo showed glimpses but also marred his performance with a few errors. By the time the changes were rung the Bulls firmly had the momentum
and there was no coming back.
The Bulls were deserved winners and if they can play eighty minutes like they played the second forty they are going to be tough to beat. For the Stormers a good first half could not make up for a very poor second half, which added truth to the old adage of the more things change the more they stay the same. Play 80 minutes and the Stormers may well be surprised by the result.Tweet