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What started out as a bright and sunny bye week for the Stormers ended with a stern warning on Saturday night when the Brumbies opened the Sharks up like a can of sardines.
A fortnight after the Stormers managed to kick just two penalties during an 80-minute slog at King’s Park, Jake White’s side needed just 35 minutes to clinch the four-try bonus point against the Sharks in Durban.
The Stormers welcomed their week off with smiles and high fives after scalping the defending champions, the Chiefs, at Newlands last week.
But the sight of the Brumbies galloping through the Sharks’ ranks with ease will put a lump in coach Allister Coetzee’s throat as he contemplates the challenge of defending Newlands against a similar charge from Super Rugby’s unbeaten log-leaders this week.
It took successive losses – against the Bulls and Sharks – for the Stormers coach to get through to his troops with a rallying call, and Coetzee is hoping that a week off hasn’t eroded his team’s newfound determination.
Sharks coach John Plumtree shirked responsibility for the 29-10 reverse against the Brumbies, blaming his players for a lack of attitude. It’s a total cop-out and, worryingly, one that has been used by the Stormers management team in recent years.
“We just didn’t pitch” is the common refrain used to explain away lacklustre performances without any accountability.
The management team is directly responsible for the players’ mental readiness, and a win against White’s side is a rare and crucial opportunity for the Stormers to make up lost ground on their SA Conference rivals.
The Brumbies’ charge must be repelled, and this week’s clash will serve as a telling gut-check of just how much character there is in this Stormers group.
Flair flyhalf Pat Lambie disappeared behind an overpowered Sharks pack, and Coetzee may well be tempted to bench Elton Jantjies in favour of giving grizzled No 10 Peter Grant, pictured, his first start of the season. – Cape Argus