Johannesburg – The licence to run the ball rather than stick to robotic playing patterns brought the best out of the Stormers as they snatched a close-shave 29-28 bonus-point victory over the Highlanders at Newlands on Saturday.
The Stormers hardly looked like a bottom-of -the-log team as their well-known defence-based game gave way to dynamic patterns which could have reaped at least two more tries had it not been for the New Zealand visitors' superb cover defence at the Railway Stand corner flag in the first half.
After the match, Stormers coach Allister Coetzee praised his team's transition from defence to attack.
“The transition from attack to defence showed a massive improvement,” said Coetzee.
“We've been in a tough place (after several defeats), both players and management, and it has been more about coping mentally. It was a necessary win.”
The Stormers' biggest test in pursuit of this win was their ability to bounce back after they surrendered a 26-14 lead by letting in two converted tries in quick succession just ahead of the hour mark when they were left trailing 26-28.
“When things turned against us, the (onfield) leadership took control.” said Coetzee.
“They knew how to get us out there, and this was against a team that scored four tries against the Sharks last week. Our intensity was right up there and that's what you need against any New Zealand side.”
The Stormers' defence wide out on the flanks was an area which the Highlanders tried to exploit by using tactical kicks and the ploy nearly paid handsome dividends.
“We tried to play an expansive game and we were able to do that because we did the basics right,” said Coetzee.
“This was the team's most polished performance this season and we managed to cut down on the rate of unforced errors.”
Highlanders' coach Jamie Joseph was pleased that his side bagged two log points (one for four tries, one for losing by less than seven points) in defeat, to add to the five they chalked up against the Sharks last week.
“If you would have asked me before we set off to South Africa, I would have told you that I would be happy with seven points,” said Jamie.
“We got to beat the Sharks but we didn't get to beat the Stormers. They had an attacking mindset from the start and I was disappointed with the number of errors we made because it put us under pressure.
“Being bottom of the log, and out of the running for the play-offs, we knew that the Stormers would play like a team that had nothing to lose and that was going to be our challenge,” said Joseph.
“Letting in a try in the first few minutes is purely a mental lapse. In the end we beat ourselves with a sin binning and some silly penalties.” – Sapa