The Stormers may have rediscovered their creative spark but execution and finishing require sharpening ahead of the next two matches in New Zealand.
Few people will believe that the attacking woes evident in the Stormers’ first three games have evaporated with a four-try hammering of the Reds. Victory plus a bonus point equals a happy start, but Rassie Erasmus and company will know more is needed to beat the Chiefs and Blues in their own backyards.
The Stormers won comfortably in Brisbane, but the 34-16 scoreline could have inflated had the visitors taken their initial chances. It’s not negative to look at the opportunities they had in the first half and lament the lack of points. Luke Watson was well held up in a surge toward the line, and a promising build up came to nought on the stroke of half-time. The number of handling errors also wrecked several attacking moves.
The Stormers could have scored more tries, but against a better team they may not receive the sort of space they did against the Reds. Against a better team, they would have regretted missing these early chances. A good Super 14 side makes the most of their opportunities when they arise, as traditionally, defences are hard to breach.
To give credit where it’s due, the Stormers’ performance last Saturday was more penetrative than in previous weeks. Erasmus had regretted the fact they weren’t getting across the advantage line against the Crusaders, but there was no such problem against the Reds. The Stormers forwards provided a solid platform in this respect which allowed their backs more space to attack.
This was evident in the number of times winger Tonderai Chavhanga got in behind defenders. The backs were lacking confidence before, but this showing will have given them a massive boost. Sireli Naqelevuki still needs to up his work rate, but Chavhanga and Conrad Jantjes were industrious, creating an ideal situation for the Stormers. If the Stormers back three can receive a steady supply of ball, the results will keep going the way of the Cape franchise.
The jury is still out on the midfield and halfback combinations. Jean de Villiers and Gcobani Bobo still fail to complement each other with any telling effect. Bobo’s ball skills are a plus, but his decision-making needs attention. His trademark grubber kick is failing to bear fruit. Shelve it, and keep the ball in hand, or pass it to the elusive Chavhanga or the belligerent Naqelevuki.
The truth is Bobo is no outside centre, a fact that’s proved by De Villiers running at 13 for certain moves on attack. Bobo’s a solid distributor, but the Stormers need that extra pace and penetration of a strike runner. No 13 is where De Villiers’s talents will be maximised.
At halfback, Ricky Januarie is still off the pace placing Peter Grant under unnecessary pressure. Grant seemed far more comfortable with his provincial team-mate Bolla Conradie at No 9. Januarie’s is lauded for his ability to snipe round the fringes and gain the extra ground, which is a great bonus as long as he’s doing his primary job well. The Stormers depend on quick ball from the base, and Januarie’s service is still too slow. There is no substitute for the basics, and at this level, the scrumhalf’s speed of delivery is crucial.
Erasmus told this website after the Reds win he wasn’t going to break out the bubbly just yet. He said there was still plenty to work on and some areas of the game need sharpening. This Friday’s match against the Chiefs is a big game, but if Erasmus is serious about progress, he shouldn’t be afraid to make personnel changes for the sake of evolution.
By Jon Cardinelli