Stormers end tour on high
28 Apr 2012
JON CARDINELLI watched the Stormers down the Force 17-3 in a weather-afflicted game on Saturday.
The result sees the Stormers finishing their four-match Australasian tour with three wins and a total of 13 log points. They will travel back to Cape Town knowing that next week’s bye will give some of their injured players time to recover, and that they have consolidated their position at the top of the South African conference.
It was always going to be that kind of game where the result mattered more than the performance. The Cape side went into this clash without Schalk Burger, Jean de Villiers, Gio Aplon, Duane Vermeulen, Nick Koster and Eben Etzebeth. Several players were forced to play out of position as a result, and that was always going to impact on their rhythm as a collective.
Then the heavens opened in Perth, and what was already meant to be a scrap quickly escalated into a complete clanger. Players on both sides lost their footing on attack and defence. Hookers struggled to feed the ball straight at the lineout. Ball control was nigh on impossible, the wet pill popping out of many a ball-carrier’s hands and even sliding out of an attacking breakdown.
It was because of these conditions that neither side was able to play with much structure. That said, the Stormers weren’t at their abrasive best in the first half, and were turned over far too often at the breakdown. They missed the physicality of Vermeulen and Etzebeth, and as a forward unit they looked a team at the end of taxing tour.
It took a piece of individual brilliance to swing the momentum in their favour. 2012 has seen Bryan Habana enjoying his best season in a Stormers shirt, and on this occasion he showed the vision to intercept a flat Force pass and race 70m to score. Considering the battle to control the wet ball, 7-3 turned out to be a commanding lead.
A mistake by the Force right after the break allowed Peter Grant to extend the visitors’ lead to 10-3. It was during this period that the Stormers started to impose themselves a bit more at the point of contact, and it was from a breakdown turnover that their second try was created.
For the first time in the game, the Stormers were able to take the ball through the phases, and a quick pass from Dewaldt Duvenage found Grant for the try. At 17-3, the Stormers had struck a telling blow.
The Force attempted to narrow the deficit but were undone by typically determined Stormers defence. The visitors also succeeded in putting more pressure on the Force with the high ball in the second half, and it was through this tactic that they enjoyed more territory.
For the final 20 minutes of a four-week tour to Australasia, it was a special effort. It was here that the Stormers clattered into the Force’s ball-carriers, refusing to allow the hosts a consolatory bonus point.
The weather played it’s part and they may have lacked that characteristic clout in the first stanza, but they finished this game well.