The Stormers have won few friends this season with their blanket ban on fans and media at practice sessions.
On the basis of what they dished up here last night, team management should perhaps look at broadening the blackout to include match days as well.
If there’s anything top-secret going on behind closed doors at the team’s new, hi – tech Bellville base, it must still strictly be a work-in-progress.
Now, as if their task of clawing their back in the competition wasn’t difficult enough, the Stormers head to Loftus this week to confront the Bulls on the back of another crushing home defeat — their second this season.
Duane Heath writes for the Sunday Times that the Blues, coming off a back-yard bullying by the selfsame Bulls in Pretoria last week, sensed a much more even fight this time around. And so it proved on a night where the home side once again started the game with clear-headed purpose and ended it in a sleepwalk.
In a match played in a staccato stutter, the opening blows were duly exchanged and they hinted at what was to come: Joe Rokocoko, back from paternity leave, tripped over his own feet and Luke Watson, after a heavy dose of home-team pressure, loosened the vice with a candyfloss chip that went precisely nowhere.
But the Stormers managed to open their account in the 11th minute through a penalty from flyhalf Peter Grant after an extended stay in the opposition 22, although the locals probably wasted at least three try-scoring opportunities along the way.
Hooker Schalk Brits and centre Gcobani Bobo in particular were too often guilty of cutting down the space of the speedsters outside them, while Jean de Villiers did break through — only to find a grateful Blues hand to catch the try-scoring pass. It was one of those nights.
With play swinging from end to end, it was Grant who saved a certain try with a last-gasp tackle on a thundering Josh Blackie, but the home side’s lead was preserved for only one minute longer: from the resultant scrum, the Blues cooked up a back-row move and found wing Paul Williams unmarked on the grandstand touchline. Simple, yet deadly.
The Stormers were again spurred into action and their speedy reply came from Ricky Januarie, who pounced on a loose ball as only he can, then somehow won the race down field against much faster opponents to make it 8-5. It wasn’t quite hare-and-tortoise stuff, but you get the picture.
Williams, the son of All Black great Bryan, ensured that the sides headed into the break deadlocked with a 37th-minute penalty. But no sooner had they returned for the second half than the near misses continued unabated at both ends: there was the rare sight of Schalk Burger spilling the ball with the tryline at his mercy; Isaia Toeva’s intercept was snuffed out by a desperate De Villiers lunge when he seemed certain to score; and Tonderai Chavhanga, denied a look-in all evening, dropped a crucial ball in open space with the Blues stretched to breaking point.
But before all of this, it was Williams who had given the Blues the lead with his second penalty, after which the visitors seemed content to play the percentages until the wing made it 14-6 with his second kick in the dying minutes to send sections of the 30000 Newlands faithful heading for an early exit.
Stormers 8 — Try: Ricky Januarie. Penalty: Peter Grant.
Blues 14 — Try: Paul Williams. Penalties: Williams (3).Tweet