The Stormers bumbled their way to an unconvincing 34-6 win over Boland on Saturday.
Nobody would have predicted that a Boland player, Boena van Rooyen, would leave the field injured before the game had even started. Nobody could have anticipated that this freakish game would be closely contested in the first hour, or that the Kavaliers would warrant the most plaudits during this period.
The Stormers blundered their way through the first half, losing the ball in contact and showcasing a general lack of precision. Flyhalf Elgar Watts was a disappointment, kicking poorly for touch and at goal. Watts made several errors in general play, failed to impose himself on the shaky Boland defence and even struggled with basics like kicking a penalty into touch.
His opposite number was more confident and skillful. Willie le Roux, who attended the WP U18 Academy before enjoying a stint with Racing Metro in 2009, oozed attacking quality. He troubled the Stormers’ defence with his flat running and snappy distribution. He also showed some ability with the boot, chipping the opposition and sending crossfield kicks out to his wings.
Le Roux wasn’t without fault, as it was his overconfidence that led to the Stormers’ second try. After attempting to run himself out of trouble, he was caught by Tim Whitehead and tackled over his own tryline. Whitehead swooped on the loose ball and ensured the Stormers went to a 12-3 half-time lead.
The try was scored as Tiaan Liebenberg was escorted from the field with what looked like a serious injury. If the robust hooker is sidelined for a lengthy period it would be a big blow to the Stormers’ campaign.
Aside from their inconsistent set-piece, the Stormers were punished for an inaccurate display at the breakdown. Boland were successful in turning the much-fancied Stormers over, and from broken field, they enjoyed plenty of momentum in the wider channels.
Had the minnows nailed their kicks, the game may have been far closer. Jacquin Jansen missed two penalty kicks and sent a drop-goal attempt wide.
Jean de Villiers scored early in the second stanza to give the Stormers some breathing room, but the quality of performance failed to improve. They continued to lose ball in contact, and were unable to protect the ball at the breakdown.
The change at flyhalf helped, with Lionel Cronje troubling the Boland defence with some darting runs. His clever chip was ironically fielded by Watts as the Stormers scored their fourth try. A runaway try for the bustling JJ Engelbrecht followed, while Ruan Kitshoff scored from a lineout drive as the Boland effort began to disintegrate.
There’s plenty to ponder in the two weeks leading up to the Stormers’ first match. Unless Peter Grant returns, they’re missing an established flyhalf, their discipline is still a problem and the set-piece is a mess.
Boland may have been the team in pink on this particular occasion, but it was the Stormers that left the field red-faced.