The Stormers sunk to a 30-20 defeat against the Chiefs, with the suicidal combination of defensive demons and Kobus van der Merwe’s selection calls again the decisive factors.
In what must seem like Groundhog Day for every Stormers supporter whenever their team plays, again the Stormers led with only 14 minutes to go. The final whistle deficit of 10 should not be condoned as “heartbreaking”, as so many other defeats have been explained away. It is simply not good enough to continually lose from winning positions.
De Wet Barry has been indirectly accused of lacking the leadership abilities to be captain. On Saturday he wasn’t on the park until the last two minutes and cannot be the scapegoat. The mistake of appointing him skipper cannot be undone in the third week of the tour, and that rang true with stinging clarity as Schalk Brits could not alter the familiar, faultering pattern those tasked with following this team have endured for the last two months.
Van der Merwe has said in the past he accepts responsibility for the team’s performances. Responsibility comes packaged with consequence. If the ill-discipline of the duo cost the Stormers the opportunity to sneak the win against the Blues last weekend, than Van der Merwe’s selections contributed to this defeat.
Naas Olivier, starting his third consecutive match in jersey 10, has been a revelation. He was better than he’s been for the first 51 minutes against the Hicks. After a decisive opening 50 minutes, Olivier kicked a testing penalty goal to hand the Stormers a seven point lead. His run back from converting the kick took him to the touchline. He was substituted by Peter Grant. It was a baffling tactical call.
Grant has not played in three weeks. Now he was expected to close out a game that the Stormers held tentatively. It was always asking too much, as a poor pass in the 53rd minute, a kick from right in front missed in the 73rd that would have tied the scores and a routine knock a minute later attest to.
To pick Tonderai Chavhanga at fullback was a bold call, given he has played only once in 31 appearances in the number 15 jersey. The player made the selection look foolish with an inept positional and defensive display.
Jongi Nokwe showed guts on defence, making a couple of crucial hits, but his juggling act whenever a high ball is kicked on him only added to the Stormers vulnerability among the back three. Surprisingly, it took the Chiefs 50 minutes to expose this obvious weakness.
Despite Van der Merwe’s selections, the players have a case to answer. The up-and-in defence system is being cut apart every week, mostly in the midfield. The defensive efforts are not good enough and it is time to admit that players calling themselves professionals are simply incapable of executing it.
On attack, Chavhanga, Nokwe and Rayno Benjamin were energetic but ineffective, Marius Joubert gets worse every week, Joe van Niekerk and Luke Watson were anonymous and the tight five seem to think the sum total of their delivery consists of lineout and scrums.
The exceptions are Jean de Villiers, mercurial on attack if erratic on defence, Schalk Burger, Olivier, Brits and especially Neil de Kock.
The former Bok No 9 had a massive game on cover defence, and the lead his side enjoyed when he was finally forced to leave the field was due more to his incredible commitment than any other factor. In only his second start, De Kock was immense. Ultimately, the performance was an improvement on the mess dished up against the Blues, but still horribly short of potential. The underachievement is now reaching ghastly proportions, and the excuses are now ringing as hollow as the repeated calls for patience.
Tries: Nili Latu and Anthony Tahana 2
Cons: Stephen Donald 3
Pens: Donald 3
Tries: Jean de Villiers and Tonderai Chavhanga
Cons: Naas Olivier 2
Pens: Olivier and Peter Grant
By Chris Hewitt