The Stormers returned home battered and bruised from their battle in Pretoria, with hooker Scarra Ntubeni being the latest to go down.
Ntubeni has been ruled out for at least six weeks with a broken bone in his foot, according to coach Allister Coetzee, after limping off in a brutal 28-12 defeat to the Bulls at Loftus.
Prop Brok Harris is also likely to miss Saturday’s clash against the Force at Newlands due to a cut eyelid, and stand-in captain Schalk Burger is struggling with a sore back, although Coetzee feels that he will play this weekend.
But the coach told the Cape Times last night that he is hoping to have skipper Jean de Villiers back, as well as props Oli Kebble and Frans Malherbe and wing Kobus van Wyk. He added that flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis is a “big possibility” to return from concussion.
Ntubeni’s absence will be a major blow for the Force game, as it means that Deon Fourie will probably start at hooker. Coetzee said that Tiaan Liebenberg is still three to four weeks away from playing again.
Despite a brilliant start that saw the Cape side 12-0 up in 20 minutes, Coetzee felt that the lack of heavy-hitters led to a gradual decrease in physicality.
“We unsettled them in the beginning, but when they got into that structure, if you don’t have experienced enough players to keep them out of their structure, then it’s not easy. You worked on a lot of things last week, and then you lose eight players and something else crops up. So, it was always going to be difficult,” said the coach.
“But I was really pleased with the way the debutants performed. People thought that we would be ripped apart, but the guys showed a lot of heart and effort. The big problem for us is that we couldn’t get properly out of our half.”
The Stormers were on the wrong side of referee Craig Joubert’s whistle on a few occasions, with the most notable incident coming when he blew up Duane Vermeulen at a breakdown on the Stormers’ tryline with the score at 12-9 to the visitors on halftime.
There seemed to be some discord between Burger and Joubert as a result of a few decisions in the Bulls’ favour. “I don’t think there is a problem (between the Stormers and Joubert) necessarily. We made decisions at the breakdown, and Duane was 100 percent right – he was over the ball. One can debate it, but … Under the poles, under the poles, that was a clear steal, it’s a classic steal. And the penalty went against us,” said Coetzee.
“Schalk did speak to him at halftime, but Schalk was probably, in the heat of the moment, a bit worked up there. But it was sorted out.
“I will definitely speak to Craig about it as I have a good relationship with Craig. I just need to clear it up and explain to the players because on a few occasions, the penalty could’ve gone either way, even our way.”
But the tries by Kurt Coleman and Juan de Jongh were vintage Stormers touchdowns, so while Coetzee’s team go back to the bottom of the log, they will be encouraged by the fact that their emphasis on an attack-minded gameplan is paying off.
“Absolutely, our broken-field play was superb, the support lines run. With all the injuries, that is what this team can do,” said the coach.
“We are lacking our big, physical players to sustain that physical battle for 80 minutes, but this type of game is what we want to play, and those 20 minutes is definitely how we want to keep playing, but for a longer period. We need to improve on our exits and concede less penalties.”
(All games SA times)
Hurricanes v Highlanders (9.35am).
Crusaders v Sharks (9.35am), Reds v Rebels (11.40am), Stormers v Force (5.05pm), Cheetahs v Brumbies (7.10pm).
Waratahs v Lions (8.05am).
Byes: Blues, Bulls, Chiefs.
P W D L F A P
Sharks 11 8 0 3 274 187 36
Chiefs 11 6 2 3 299 247 35
Brumbies 11 8 0 3 276 233 34
C’saders 10 7 0 3 294 218 31
Force 10 7 0 3 230 213 31
H’canes 11 6 0 5 322 278 30
H’landers 10 6 0 4 269 253 30
W’tahs 10 6 0 4 249 196 29
Bulls 12 5 1 6 260 257 28
Blues 11 5 0 6 298 296 25
Lions 11 4 0 7 209 280 18
Rebels 10 3 0 7 200 245 17
Reds 11 3 0 8 250 348 17
Ch’tahs 12 2 1 9 293 393 16
Stormers 11 3 0 8 186 265 15 - Cape Times