CAPE TOWN - The Stormers earn both criticism and plaudits as Mark Keohane looks at the positives and negatives from round 12 of Super Rugby this past weekend.
1: Damian de Allende’s strength in contact has always been a trademark, but it’s his decision-making and distribution that was the game changer in the Stormers win against the Bulls. The Bulls, having trailed 12-0, took the lead 17-12 in the 48th minute. All the momentum was with the visitors, but the Stormers struck back two minutes later through De Allende to halt the Bulls’ charge. De Allende produced a glorious “show and go” moment, feinted an offload, held back his pass for a second and then calmly put away SP Marais for the try. De Allende’s play, in that moment, screamed Springbok.
2: Steven Kitshoff and Wilco Louw have been waiting for a month to set the record straight after the inglorious opening scrum against the Bulls in Pretoria. All the hype about the opening scrum being worth the ticket price was vindicated in the most brutal destruction of the Bulls, which led to Damian Willemse scoring. This was supposed to be the match in which Bulls tighthead Trevor Nyakane put down his Bok marker. Nyakane was a late withdrawal and in his absence Stormers tighthead Wilco Louw, combined with loosehead Kitshoff to make the most telling of Bok front-row statements.
3. Sharks and former Kings and Cheetahs speedster Makazole Mapimpi is a dynamic try scorer, but against the Highlanders it was his defence and ability to create that was every bit as impressive as his finishing. Mapimpi was strong in contact against Highlanders and All Black wing Waisake Naholo and scored a wonderful try. But the moment that sticks with me is the split-second offload to Lukhanyo Am to set up the Sharks’ fifth and final try. There is a instinctive side to Mapimpi’s attacking game that can’t be coached, and it was summarised in that super second of creative genius.
1. Lions wing Ruan Combrinck did more damage to his Bok aspirations in five minutes against the Hurricanes in Wellington than most players do in five months. Combrinck is a fan favourite and one of my wing favourites. But his feeble defence can’t be excused. In last year’s Super Rugby final against the Crusaders his game was devoid of defensive presence and his meek surrender defensively at the weekend was a surrender to any Bok wing claim. Hurricanes wing Ben Lam embarrassed Combrinck’s defence, just a few minutes after the Lions wing had missed touch with a basic defensive kick clearance and then hoofed the ball directly into touch with his next kick.
2. Ramone Samuels played with fire in the belly and foolishness in the head when he put in a late hit on Bulls flyhalf Handre Pollard. Samuels, the brother of flyhalf Damian Willemse, showed an ugliness in a hit that was premeditated and cowardly. He got punished with a yellow card, the Stormers took strain for 10 minutes and fortunately for player and team it didn’t prove decisive to the outcome of the game. I love the passion and intensity with which the Stormers hooker plays, but I didn’t like that act of thuggery one bit.
3. The Waratahs cost me some good cash on the weekend. I took a multiple accumulator bet on the Waratahs, Stormers and Sharks to be victorious. I trusted history at Newlands, my heart in Durban and my head in Sydney. The lesson here: Don’t invest cash on the Aussies when it comes to trans-Tasman matches. There’s a reason the Aussie’s have lost 38 successive Super Rugby matches against the Kiwis. I was dirty with myself, and I reckon I wasn’t the only punter seriously ranting at the incompetence of the Waratahs.