More breakdown blues for Rassie

The Stormers’ inability to adapt to Paul Marks’s refereeing style cost them dearly at Eden Park, says Rassie Erasmus.

The Stormers went into this match as underdogs even though the Blues were without star flyhalf Nick Evans. The hosts were off the pace, but despite a poor handling display and an indifferent goal-kicking performance they were still able to edge the Stormers 17-14.

Speaking to after the match, Erasmus lamented the number of penalties conceded at the breakdown. Marks slammed the Stormers for repeatedly killing the ball and after 30 minutes sent flanker Francois Louw to the sin bin.

Erasmus believes this was a huge blow to the Stormers.

“I think we need to learn to adapt to the refereeing style for each particular game. On this occasion, the ref was very strict on stealing at the breakdown and it resulted in a yellow card for us. He actually allowed counterrucking more than he allowed competing for the ball on the ground.”

The Blues only scored three points while Louw was on the sideline, but the one-man disadvantage took it’s toll later in the game.

“We expected them to come at us hard in the first 20 to 30 minutes and we were always confident that our defence could absorb the pressure while they tired on attack,” said Erasmus. “We’re a fit team, but that yellow card really set us back. In the second half, we were behind even when we got Francos back on the field. We struggled to gain the ascendancy.”

The Stormers did edge their way back with a try by Conrad Jantjes and some accurate goal-kicking by Peter Grant. A 14-14 draw was on the cards, but Ben Atiga goaled a penalty attempt at full-time to give the hosts the win.

“It’s certainly a match we felt we could have won. I felt the team played well but at the end of the day it’s not nice when you look at the scoreboard,” said Erasmus.

“We’re still learning and I feel there was improvement from last week’s performance. We may have rolled over if we had conceded that yellow card earlier in the season, but the guys did well to hang in there until half time. They also stuck to their guns in the second half and didn’t slip into a more defensive mode when they had fought back.”

The Stormers have picked up 11 points from three tour matches, but the pressure to perform will be magnified when they travel to Perth. The Western Force are hitting some form and look likely play-off contenders, but the Stormers have to win here to keep their semi-final dreams alive.

The Cape side lost their first three matches before beating the Reds and Chiefs in consecutive games. Erasmus said there were enough positive aspects from the defeat in Auckland to suggest their progress graph is still on the rise.

“The team has some way to go, but they are maturing. There are still a lot of mistakes, but at least we are not making the same mistakes. I believe we are making progress,” he said.

By Jon Cardinelli