The highlight of the Stormers’ messy 47-13 win over Boland was the atmosphere at the new Cape Town Stadium.
The Stormers fielded a second-string side but should be disappointed with this performance just a week before the Super 14 proper. Captain Schalk Burger left the field with a shoulder injury in the 14th minute, and his team-mates spilled the ball with frightening regularity. The lineout failed to function at the efficiency seen in the first two warm-ups and JD Moller struggled at scrum-time.
The quality of rugby did little to deter the 40 000-strong crowd, which will swell to nearly 70 000 when the Soccer World Cup roles round this June. While Stormers coach Allister Coetzee wouldn’t have learned anything from the match on the pitch, the occasion did raise questions about the future of Newlands.
A capacity crowd at the Cape Town Stadium would make for a powerful atmosphere, and coupled with the money factor, this may trump sentiment when deciding on where to host future Stormers games.
While Boland were competitive in the first half, they made a significant amount of errors. This serves as an indicator of just how rusty the Stormers were, both as individuals and combinations. Deon Fourie and Dylan des Foutain finished their tries well, but too often a Stormers player dropped the ball in contact or lost possession at the breakdown.
The game afforded Springbok scrumhalf Ricky Januarie and probable flyhalf Willem de Waal their first opportunities, and rusty is again the best word to describe their respective performances.
De Waal battled to gel with his backline which is unsurprising given this is his first competitive match since July 2009. He may be the Stormers’ favourite to spearhead a kicking-oriented game plan, but based on his performance against Boland, he doesn’t look match ready.
Frikkie Welsh scored the Stormers’ third try to stretch the lead, but the game still failed to flow. Lionel Cronje produced a piece of magic when his cross-kick was caught and planted by Sireli Naqelevuki for the fourth try, but these moments were too few and far between. The Cape franchise added three more tries, but again mention must be made of the soft Boland defence.
While this match will be remembered as the first rugby fixture at the new World Cup stadium, it’s a pity that two better teams were not available to mark the occasion. Perhaps the Stormers board will consider a move to Green Point, if not permanently, then maybe for the big games where attracting a 60 000-plus crowd is likely.
By Jon Cardinelli, at Cape Town Stadium