CAPE TOWN – It was a stirring fightback win, but there are a number of things the Stormers can, and should, be disappointed about when they reflect on their 44-31 victory over the Sunwolves in Singapore.
They should be disappointed by the fact that the Sunwolves completely dominated possession in the first half. They should be disappointed by the fact that they lost three crucial attacking lineouts. And they should definitely be disappointed with their poor defensive effort.
But the biggest disappointment should be how the Stormers, who have tried to evolve their game into a more 15-man attacking approach, resorted to a mainly forward game to score three of their six tries.
What makes it even more disappointing is that they scored a stunningly beautiful try in the first half, which included all the elements of the kind of play they are striving to reach.
Fullback Dillyn Leyds went on a brilliant jinking, stepping run from his own 22 before offloading from the ground to scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage, who cracked on the pace before slipping a great back-flip pass to lock JD Schickerling.
Flyhalf Robert du Preez jumped into the act with a superb inside pass (his second of the season) before EW Viljoen rounded off a truly wonderful movement by scooping the ball up off his toes with one hand to reach the glory line.
The Sunwolves called all the shots on attack early on, and they made amazing use of decoy runners, forward and backline interplay, swift passes, impressive handling, and intelligent kicks.
The hosts played at a high tempo and they were also clever at the breakdowns and, at times, opted not to commit too many numbers at the breakdown, which of course resulted in them having more men on their feet in their flat defensive line – something that made it tough for the Stormers to get to the tryline.
Their scrummaging was also impressive again, and they often got the ball in and out so quickly that the ball had already drifted out wide while the scrum contest still went on.
But there were also other positive signs for the Stormers.
Vice-captain Leyds was outstanding and was good under the high ball. He worked hard and made some good tackles, while Du Preez had a massive game filled with strong carries, tackles and a brilliant chip kick to outside centre Viljoen, who was perhaps unlucky not to have his try awarded.
Du Preez nailed his kicks at goal and missed only one conversion. Scrumhalf Duvenage also varied his game very well.
Their driving maul was also good again, and maybe they should have kicked for the corner towards the end of the first half and use the lineout to get over the tryline (instead of going for posts) since they looked scared of playing too much against the Japanese.
If the attacking route is one that Fleck really wants to follow, his team shouldn’t back down and go for a safer approach to get ahead on the scoreboard.
Which is exactly what they did after they were 24-20 down at halftime.
They should stick to their attacking plan and work on it, because it’s in games like these that they will learn to perfect it.
I guess it doesn’t really matter how you score tries, as long as you score ’em, but it can certainly be said that the Stormers crept back into their safe-rugby shells as the pressure increased, and their tries through No 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, tighthead prop Wilco Louw and hooker Bongi Mbonambi was proof of that.
Elstadt’s one was a particularly good example of that “shell”, as he got a try after the Stormers tried to maintain their field position and to prevent the Sunwolves from getting the ball close to halftime.
They took the ball through 10 phases of pick-and-go over almost 20 metres – and it was enough to get them to the tryline, as Elstadt got the ball from the ruck and dived over for the try.
And if there was an overall contest for the most impressive tries, the award certainly would have gone to the hosts, who showed great enterprise and skill to score their four five-pointers.
The Stormers will also not need to be reminded that it was still a tight game at 34-31 with 10 minutes to go when Sunwolves flyhalf Jumpei Ogura, who's enjoyed a clean kicking record of five out of five, bizarrely missed a penalty kick in front of the posts.
And from there, the Stormers maintained control of the game with more powerful surges from the pack, before an accurate chip by replacement back Kurt Coleman put wing Bjorn Basson in the clear for the final try to end what was an enthralling, absorbing game of rugby.