Injuries, defensive failings and tactical turmoil brought the Stormers low for the umpteenth time as they allowed the Chiefs a 28-14 bonus-point win at Newlands.
The Stormers’ attack looked promising when they kept the ball in hand, but on Saturday this was the exception rather than the norm. One-dimensional flyhalf Willem de Waal repeatedly launched the garryowen , but his tactical kicking lacked the accuracy and the support from Stormers chasers to really worry the visitors.
The Stormers also suffered a double blow in the first half when they lost Springboks Conrad Jantjes and Schalk Burger. The game was held up for 15 minutes while every precaution was taken to ensure Jantjes’s safe escort from the field. Burger went off towards the end of the first period and failed to return.
The Chiefs’ tactical kicking was little better than that of the Stormers, but the home side were less sure under the high ball. Replacement fullback Tiger Bax dropped a few kick receptions at the back and shanked several clearances to place his team under pressure.
For all their tactical failings, the Stormers scored the first try after a good build up and finish by De Waal. But the Chiefs hit back when their seemingly unimaginative approach proved prosperous. They hammered away at what looked to be a very well-organised defence until Stephen Donald slipped through Bax and set up Liam Messam for a simple score.
The Stormers managed to keep the ever-improving Chiefs at bay but faltered in the last move of the half. Again, it was a slipped tackle that allowed Richard Kahui to find scrumhalf Toby Morland for a try and 14-7 lead.
The hosts came to their senses in the second half, De Waal stowing the unnecessary boot-and-hope strategy. But the lack of confidence in the backline was patent as their passes continued to miss their mark. When the passes did stick, the ball-carrier ultimately died in the tackle.
Stormers loose forwards Luke Watson and Duane Vermeueln shone from a ball-carrying and defensive perspective but unfortunately the hosts could never get it together collectively. The Chiefs also coughed up a few opportunities but you always got the feeling they weren’t too far away from another strike.
They were more aggressive at the breakdown and turned the Stormers over three times to deny them what seemed likely try-scoring chances. It is frightening to think the Chiefs could deliver such an off-colour showing and still win through.
The Chiefs opted to keep the ball tighter when in the Stormers’ 22 and in the face of some determined defence, weaseled their way over the tryline. The television replay indicated Mils Muliaina had failed to ground the ball and so the Stormers’ received respite.
But it lasted for all of two minutes when Callum Bruce found Kahui running a great line. The All Blacks centre broke one feeble attempt and offloaded to Morland before he was nailed by the cover defence. With 15 minutes to play, the shellshocked Stormers were done.
The Chiefs, however, had more petrol in the tank and Kahui scored the visitors’ fourth in the 79th minute.
The result will disappoint Sharks fans who now see the Chiefs surpassing them on the log. The fact that the Stormers’ defence crumbled after a final Kiwi barrage will also draw jeers up north, as the Chiefs’ bagging of the bonus point elevates them beyond the Bulls to No 2 on the table.
By Jon Cardinelli