It would be premature to be a prophet of Stormers doom and to say they should consider themselves lucky if they make it anywhere near the Super Rugby play-offs this year. But if you’re of that opinion, I can certainly see where you’re coming from.
The Stormers should never have lost 34-27 to the Waratahs yesterday. And there were a lot of things they should have done better.
In just two minutes, with a one-man advantage, they threw it all away. It’s not like the rest of their game was flawless, but everything went to pieces in the last 10 minutes. Point is, the Stormers should have won the game when they were locked at 24-24, 15 against 14. That didn’t happen and the game went to 27-27 with two minutes to go. And that was unacceptable.
So what happened?
I believe it’s true that something that’s not broken shouldn’t be fixed, unless you’re positive doing so will improve that intact, unbroken object, team, or plan.
So why did the Stormers deem it necessary to make changes – and so many – in the second half?
And the worst part is those changes didn’t change the game for the better.
The lineouts served as the perfect example.
Ramone Samuels, who started at hooker in the absence of Bongi Mbonambi, had a good first half around the park, with his only error coming at the lineout with his last throw-in.
On came Dean Muir to replace Samuels, and two lineout errors followed – the second one an error that was almost unforgivable.
First they screwed up a scrum - after being dominant in this area the whole game with massive efforts from Wilco Louw and Steven Kitshoff – on their own 22.
The Tahs turned over possession and threw a wild pass into touch. The hooter went, and the Stormers simply had to get their last lineout right, retain possession and kick it out. But instead they went for a complex lineout move again, Muir threw the ball right into Aussie hands, while the men in the set-piece, looking confused, scrambled to make up for the ridiculous error.
They should have kept it simple, the structure and the call, knowing they were down to their fourth-choice hooker. But no. It led to a try, and the Stormers were left with their heads hanging while the Waratahs celebrated.
Another area which didn’t go their way was under the high ball.
Ahead of the match, Robbie Fleck spoke about the aerial battle he was expecting from the likes of Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley, and the threats out wide.
Israel Folau is world-renowned for his ability under the high ball for a reason, yet looking at the Stormers you’d think they’d never encountered him before. They weren’t a big-enough presence under the ball at all. And if you followed their words out of Sydney, you’d have been pretty confident it was thoroughly addressed last week. Clearly not.
Then there were all the silly mistakes in between and the poor decision-making.
Clumsiness with ball in hand was evident again, just like it was against the Jaguares, and it reared its ugly head very early on - in the form of rushed passes that went forward, knock ons, and hurried movements that didn’t always do them good. And, unfortunately, it didn’t completely disappear after the opening quarter.
The Stormers had so many chances. And they could have had the win. After all, they dominated territory, possession and the scrum.
Now they face the mammoth task of regrouping and improving ahead of their match in Christchurch against a team who put almost 50 on the Chiefs and made it look ridiculously easy.
Their first loss in Australia in five matches will undoubtedly make that a tough one. Let’s just hope we see a sharper team which won’t throw away their chances like they did on Saturday.