at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Coach Allister Coetzee says the Stormers have the exciting runners and steppers to give the public the tries that they want to see at Newlands.
That was the message after the under-fire Cape side scored their first four-try bonus point in Saturday’s 29-28 win over the Highlanders. “We want to score tries, this is what the people want to come see here at Newlands, and we’ve got the athletes who are exciting runners and exciting handlers and steppers,” Coetzee said.
“So geez, it’s the right thing to do. As long as we have clarity about it, as long as we buy into it and the brand, and the people understand the brand and they are behind the team.”
The Stormers’ last four-try bonus point was against the Brumbies at Newlands on March 23 last year. When asked if the enthusiastic display was confirmation that the more attacking gameplan was the right thing to do, Coetzee said: “Without a doubt. Change brings fear in itself, but you will never know until you do it.
“And I think it is change for the better, definitely. The talk this week was ‘What do players chat about after a game’, and it’s the exciting things – how I put you away into a short half-gap, the carry and the double-tackle.
“And the bottom line is – and you okes (the media) gave us sort of fair (criticism), in some instances, where we defend only, and when we have the ball, we don’t know how to make that transition into attack, we can’t get it right and we don’t want to. And now we want to do it. But still it’s just to keep a balanced sort of a game and to make sure that the product looks like this, like this performance.”
The Stormers played with wonderful zest and energy and put the Highlanders under pressure with ball-in-hand. With Scarra Ntubeni back from injury, the lineouts functioned more smoothly than in previous weeks, while Schalk Burger showed that there is still life in those old bones yet with a vintage all-action performance.
But it wasn’t just all bump and grind for Burger – his amazing back-flip pass put Frans Malherbe into a hole in the Highlanders’ defence for the big tighthead prop to score his second try on the day.
And all of that helped Kurt Coleman to produce the most polished game seen from a Stormers flyhalf this year.
The 24-year-old did not receive a single minute of gametime on the disastrous overseas tour, and he showed Coetzee and his assistants what they had been missing as he took charge on attack – slinging out accurate passes (the long bullet to Juan de Jongh to set up Damian de Allende’s try was a gem), carrying the ball himself and hoisting well-placed up-and-unders.
His goal-kicking was a bit up-and-down (he had a 3/5 record), including a howler in front of the posts, but Coleman proved that he is the man who can spearhead the Stormers’ new-found emphasis on attack.
So it was a major surprise that he made way for the out-of-form Peter Grant with 20 minutes left. “I thought Kurt was good, really pleased. Obviously guys like Kurt, Scarra and Schalk, guys who haven’t played, got a bit tired towards the end. But while they were on the field, they really played well and I’m really pleased with Kurt’s start,” Coetzee said.
While the leaky defence remains a concern – the four tries conceded makes it nine in two games – the Stormers don’t want to crawl back into their defensive shells in the Loftus blockbuster against the Bulls. The three-times champions are back on the winning trail after beating the Cheetahs 26-21.
“I think this game has to be played by doing the basics right. And if you look at set-piece, our lineouts were fairly decent in this game and we can play off that. Then it’s the normal unforced errors that we cut, although there were still some,” Coetzee said.
“The players made the step-up in terms of backing what we are doing. Some might be saying that we are sitting between two chairs – going more towards an attacking intent, and when you make a couple of mistakes, then you sort of get into that fear of losing thing, you know. And we say ‘Stuff that, that’s where we want to go’ and so we as coaches and management back the players all the way.”
Despite the entertaining win, the reality is that the Stormers are just ahead of the last-placed Cheetahs on points difference, as both are on 15 log points.
And the captain won’t allow his team to go down without growing their game and working their way up the table. “The fear of ending at the bottom of the log is definitely something that not one of us wants to have on their CV. Once there’s pride involved and you start feeling for the guys you are playing with, being bottom will never be good enough,” De Villiers said.
“The Bulls game is a big test. Hopefully we can continue in this vein and keep getting better in what we do. Maybe in a way not be as much results-driven, but sticking to the plan that we’ve got now and the way we want to play.”
But the Stormers are likely to face the Bulls without Steven Kitshoff, who took a knock to the knee that Coetzee said is “a big concern”. Kitshoff will be reassessed today, but Oli Kebble, who did well on Saturday and scored his first try, is set to wear the No 1 jersey at Loftus.
Sailosi Tagicakibau was ruled out with a calf tear that will keep him out for at least two more weeks, so Kobus van Wyk – who did well at left wing – will compete with the fit-again Cheslin Kolbe for a starting spot.
Others such as Eben Etzebeth, Manuel Carizza, Pat Cilliers and Tiaan Liebenberg are making their way back from injury in the next few weeks, although they are unlikely to be ready for the Bulls game.
Metres run: Stormers 443 Highlanders 322
Carries: Stormers 148 Highlanders 79
Clean breaks: Stormers 9 Highlanders 4
Passes: Stormers 152 Highlanders 90
Handling errors: Stormers 7 Highlanders 10
Tackles: Stormers 71 Highlanders 139
Missed tackles: Stormers 19 Highlanders 22
Penalties conceded: Stormers 4 Highlanders 10
Source: Vodacom Rugby Stats App
Hamilton: Chiefs vs Blues (9.35am), Melbourne: Rebels vs Hurricanes (11.40am).
Dunedin: Highlanders vs Lions (9.35am), Canberra: Brumbies vs Sharks (11.40am), Bloemfontein: Cheetahs vs Western Force (5:05pm), Pretoria: Bulls vs Stormers (7.10pm).
Brisbane: Reds vs Crusaders (8.05am).
P W D L F A B P
Sharks 10 8 0 2 265 171 3 35
Brumbies 10 7 0 3 260 224 2 30
Chiefs 10 5 2 3 267 227 6 30
Waratahs 10 6 0 4 249 196 5 29
Force 9 6 0 3 207 197 3 27
C’saders 9 6 0 3 237 189 2 26
H’canes 10 5 0 5 297 263 6 26
H’landers 9 5 0 4 246 231 6 26
Blues 10 5 0 5 278 264 5 25
Bulls 11 4 1 6 232 245 6 24
Rebels 9 3 0 6 185 220 5 17
Lions 10 4 0 6 187 257 0 16
Reds 10 3 0 7 221 291 4 16
Stormers 10 3 0 7 174 237 3 15
Cheetahs 11 2 1 8 277 370 5 15 - Cape Times