The Stormers burst the Brumbies bubble in Cape Town and made a mockery of Jake White’s pre-match prediction that the hosts didn’t have the attack to beat the Australians.
The Stormers, who lead 22-10 at halftime, scored four tries to one in winning 35-22.
This was one I called in my weekend pre-match picks and the Stormers were true to their defensive structure but were also prepared to back themselves on attack.
Gio Aplon scored a magical try, flyhalf Elton Jantjies created two scores with the most delicate of offloads and Gerhard van den Heever added the bonus point try with an intercept.
White had been bullish about his team’s prospects and singled out Jantjies as a defensive weakness. He also said the Stormers had not been able to score tries and they couldn’t beat the Brumbies with penalty kicks.
The Stormers responded with a statement on the field. Physically they matched and edged the Brumbies in the collisions and while the visitors were outstanding at the breakdown, the Stormers defence was decisive in determining the victory.
Veterans Andries Bekker and captain Jean de Villiers were monumental in their defensive work rate and impact on attack, No 8 Duane Vermeulen set the physical tone and reserve hooker Deon Fourie added a dimension to the breakdown.
Jantjies was brave in defence and astute in his general game and captain De Villiers lauded the young flyhalf’s performance.
The Brumbies, brilliant in dismantling the Sharks in Durban a week ago, were never allowed to settle into any groove and the physicality of the Stormers negated the attacking threat of the visitors.
White’s Brumbies had not lost away from home in seven matches, a tournament record, and had conceded only two tries in four matches. They had scored the second most in the tournament and were leading the competition.
White emphasised just how good his team had been and said there was no reason they couldn’t win in Cape Town.
It may just have been that White handed the Stormers their team talk and it was a motivated home team that played with desire and determination in the first 40 minutes and finished the final five minutes the stronger of the two teams.
Brumbies specialist fetcher George Smith was a menace and until Fourie’s introduction Smith did as he pleased at the breakdown.
Some of it was illegal but most of it was down to his brilliance on the deck. He is one of the game’s greats and he delivered his best. Not so the rest of the Brumbies who individually had their moments, but as a unit could not reproduce the high of Durban.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee, who was White’s Springbok assistant between 2004 and 2007, certainly won the first battle of the two coaching mates. Not only did the Stormers become the first team to score four tries against the Brumbies this season, but they were also the first team to limit the Brumbies to a solitary try.
The Brumbies would have felt that at 28-22 they could still sneak a win but Van den Heever’s intercept with three minutes to go completed the Stormers first bonus point victory of the season.
White was humble in defeat and said the margins of error were small when two quality sides clashed. He credited the Stormers defence and desperation at home as contributing factors and said it was a lesson to those who hadn’t played at Newlands before.
‘We showed a lot in the second half to get back into the game and with seven minutes to go I felt we could still win as only one score separated the two sides, but we were always playing catch up after trailing 22-10 at halftime,’ said White. ‘It is never easy winning in South Africa but even more so when a South African team is desperate, and the Stormers certainly showed the necessary desperation.’