Crusaders wing George Bridge scores against the Stormers on Saturday. Photo: John Davidson/www.photosport.nz
CAPE TOWN - Things went horribly wrong for the Stormers in their 57-24 thrashing by the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.

The Stormers’ defence during the tour-opening beating has been the big talking point since the match.

It was certainly a big part of their subpar performance, probably the biggest part, but there were other aspects that the Stormers will need to sort out if they want to avoid making what has been described as a “tour from hell” really hellish. And one of those aspects is how they look after the ball.

The Stormers were only in command for a little over 10 minutes, and during that period they couldn’t turn their possession into (five) points. And that says a lot about the Crusaders’ line speed and aggressive defence, but it also says enough about the Stormers and what they did (or didn’t do) when they had possession in Christchurch.

The visitors lost possession too easily after restarts, and in the second half, when the Stormers actually enjoyed some possession, they had only themselves to blame for their inability to score, as their decision-making and their handling errors cost them dearly.

All that pressure seemed to have not only affected the Stormers’ decision-making, but also their execution, and their awful tally of handling errors confirmed that.

And there were two times where the Kiwis punished the South Africans for their clumsiness - when Pete Samu caught a misdirected, almost-into-touch pass by Dan Kriel, and when Manasa Mataela caught a high pass by Oli Kebble to Pieter-Steph du Toit to run in the Crusaders’ eighth try.

If there is one thing Robbie Fleck should take from that nightmare defeat, it’s a lesson from the Kiwis on how to show real appreciation for the ball.

When it was on, the Crusaders played, and when it wasn’t, they showed patience and chose the best plan to deal with the situation - whether it was to go for the exit kick or to take the ball phase through phase.

Then there was the Stormers’ obvious flaw; their defence. They were their own worst enemy when it came to defence, and some of them slipped off tackles like they didn’t want to make them in the first place, while too many players came out their defensive line, leaving dangerous gaps.

A perfect example of that was when Cheslin Kolbe moved inside (twice), which allowed the inside man in red and black to simply drift a pass out wide to George Bridge for his third and Kieran Read for his second.

And apart from what the Stormers did wrong, there were just so many things that the Crusaders got right. After all, if a team puts 50 points on the opposition, especially if the opposition aren’t too bad, they played well.

The Star