Once again it appears as if the Stormers’ Super 14 campaign is sliding into mediocrity.
The Cape Times reports that the Sharks are on top of the log after seven matches and have only lost one, and they have toured already; the Bulls are fourth, having also only lost one match, and they have a game in hand. The Stormers should be in their company, but instead are languishing in ninth spot, ahead of the Brumbies on points difference.
The Stormers had a lot going for them in Christchurch: reasonable weather (no rain), a depleted Crusaders team (not only McCaw and Carter missing, but several others), they were coming off a bye, so they didn’t have to contend with jet-lag, a smaller crowd to worry about due to construction taking place at the AMI Stadium and they were coming off a 50-point thrashing of the Lions.
The Stormers say their tactical kicking wasn’t up to scratch and that they were unable to play enough rugby in the Crusaders half. Yes, their kicking was poor, but wasn’t the real problem on Saturday their total inability to conjure up attacking moves?
Despite a lot of the game being played between the two 22s, the Stormers seemed reluctant or unable to attack despite trailing only 8-7 for most of the second half. Players must be allowed to think on their feet and have the freedom to try things, especially in tight situations.
That’s when you want your game-breakers such as Jean de Villiers, Ricky Januarie, Duane Vermeulen, Luke Watson and Schalk Brits to take charge.
That didn’t happen in Christchurch. There was very little, if any, initiative shown on attack. The Stormers were unable to construct a single decent attacking move. Watson’s try after 10 minutes was an individual effort and poor tackling from the Crusaders certainly contributed to it.
Being 12-3 down against the Lions forced the Stormers into playing positive rugby and holding on to the ball more. The result was some marvellous tries.
The Crusaders game saw them trail 8-7 at half time and that is how it stayed for most of the match until Stephen Brett slotted a penalty in the last five minutes of play. So, because they were only a point behind, the Stormers opted to keep it tight.
Why didn’t they try to put the Crusaders away? The game was there for the taking. It also doesn’t help when Percy Montgomery comes into the line in a set backline move and then bizarrely kicks the ball into touch on the full or when Willem de Waal’s cross-kick from close to the Crusaders 22 goes backwards and Gcobani Bobo drops it despite not being under much pressure. Those two incidents just typified the Stormers’ performance on Saturday.
Rassie Erasmus thinks out of the box (or at least used to), he is a quirky figure and is still young so he should still be in touch with the playing demands of the game.
But he seems to have lost his magic touch. To hear him say that he couldn’t understand what went wrong with his team on Saturday is surprising. Erasmus normally has all the answers and gives detailed explanations.
His favourite line this year to those who question a particular tactic or selection has been “if it was coming from someone knowledgeable, then I would think about it”.
But now Erasmus has to get his team to play good rugby again, and quickly, if the Stormers are going to make the Super 14 semi-finals this year. The Stormers are running out of time to get into semi-final contention. They still have four tough matches on tour, against the Waratahs, Brumbies, Hurricanes and the ever-improving Highlanders.
It doesn’t get much more difficult than the Waratahs in Sydney. The Aussies are also in good form after pulling off a superb victory over the Blues in Auckland last week, their first ever in Super rugby history.
If the Stormers don’t win in Sydney the tour could become chaotic. What then for the Stormers and Rassie Erasmus?Tweet