Brits breathes life into Stormers

Keo, in his Argus weekly view of the Stormers performance, singles out Schalk Brits as the man who made all the difference.

A week ago Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus went on the defensive when criticised about his team’s obsession with defence at the expense of attack. This week he admitted, post the first win of the season, that there had to be a greater balance between attack and defence.

Whereas defence made up 80 percent of the Stormers effort in the three losses, an attacking mindset in the last quarter made a far greater contribution to the win against the Reds.

It was a willingness to attack that took the game away from the Reds at a point when the Stormers threatened to push the self-destruct button because of a defensive mindset.

The Reds are awful and easily rank among the worst three sides in the competition. They should never have been in a position to threaten the Stormers, but the most shocking statistic is that they were leading with 20-odd minutes to go.

Then Schalk Brits produced something special when he swiveled out of a tackle, advanced the attack 40 metres, and set up the try of the night.

Brits, a hooker who Erasmus believes can also be a loose-forward, showed more enterprise than any Stormers back.

I’ve long argued that centre is the best position for Brits. He has incredible skill, revels in space, can offload and doesn’t shirk his defensive duties. When I wrote this three years ago the obvious ridicule followed.

But go and study Brits’s Super rugby career and analyse his game when it is at its most explosive.

More often than not it is when he gets the ball in field positions you’d associate with midfielders.

Brits’ explosiveness and ability to break the line with such ease also puts a massive question mark behind the starting midfield combination of Jean de Villiers and Gcobani Bobo.

Individually, both are very good players, with quick hands and a decent appreciation of the game’s nuances. As a combination neither offers the other anything and neither has explosiveness.

Former All Black flyhalf Tony Brown’s introduction will make the Stormers more dangerous and it would be an improvement to move Peter Grant to inside centre. Playing in the No 12 jersey will also improve Grant’s appreciation of flyhalf play.

Grant had his best match of the season, but it was still not as good as the rugby he produced a year ago. The problem in the Stormers back division, though, is not so much Grant, but the link at scrumhalf.

Both Ricky Januarie and Bolla Conradie offer the same quality, which is an in-your-face and cocky approach.

Neither has classical scrumhalf games in which their strength is controlling the pace of the game or field position, ala Fourie du Preez. This means all the line-kicking pressure falls to Grant.

With Brown, Grant and Conrad Jantjes as line-kicking options, there will be an improvement, but the biggest one will come when Erasmus can invest in a halfback who thrives on calmness, not chaos.

Luke Watson’s best position is also on the side of the scrum and not at No 8.

Erasmus has often said he doesn’t know what the fuss is if a player wears 6, 7 or 8. He believes there is no difference. It is an argument that is flawed because it is not him being asked to play all three at the Stormers.

Watson’s involvement in the game is greater when he is chasing the ball. His physicality is less of a negative when he is not playing No 8.

His athletic game and skills are perfectly suited to Super rugby. It is the lack of robustness that he has to overcome at the next level.

The Stormers in Brisbane were good, but this has to be balanced with the lack of quality among the opposition. The Chiefs are a more organised side, but they are not a top five team this year.

Victory for the Stormers in Hamilton should surprise no-one, but only if the Stormers ensure there is conviction in their attack, balance in their mindset and a willingness to have a go as Brits did in Brisbane.