Steven Kitshoff was a star, but the Stormers produced the most compelling two minute display of how to lose a Super Rugby game in Sydney against a grateful Waratahs.
The Stormers, with the scores tied 24-all and with a one man advantage, should have put the Waratahs away. They didn’t and then somehow found themselves hanging on to draw the game 27-all, with two minutes to go.
They turned to the play book of how to implode. Firstly, the scrum conceded a tighthead on their own 22. The Waratahs then turned over possession with an errant pass into touch. The hooter sounded before the last lineout. The Stormers simply had to throw it, catch it and kick it out and leave Sydney with a draw.
They threw it, but only to a Waratahs player and from the turn over the home side produced a Goliath versus David moment in which David, in the guise of Raymond Rhule, was never going to win.
Rhule was rolled over by the big forward and the Waratahs added an injury time seven pointer to win 34-27.
The Stormers forwards had been good for most of the match, but when Wilco Louw was absent in the crucial last scrum it showed.
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck told IOL’s Wynona Louw pre match that the Waratahs would test the Stormers in the aerial battle. They did more than that, they dominated the Stormers.
“We’re expecting an aerial battle from the likes of (Kurtley) Beale and (Bernard) Foley, and the likes of (Israel) Folau in the wide channel. Dillyn (Leyds) will move back to the wing, with Raymond Rhule on the other wing with SP at the back,” said Fleck.
Leyds was particularly poor in the big play under the high ball in a late period when ball retention was crucial to the outcome. Folau, by contrast, was supreme in the air.
Louw had also focused on the loss of first choice hooker Bongi Mbonambi. It proved accurate as the Stormers hooker options proved inadequate when the occasion demanded excellence.
Kitshoff was the Stormers best player and Wilco Louw was also effective in the scrums but poor decision-making, ill-discipline and costly errors in the big moments combined to bury the Stormers who lost for the first time in five matches in Australia.
*I had the Stormers to win by seven plus. The bookies had the Tahs by eight. They obviously banked on Stormers stupidity whereas I hoped for Stormers skill.