Stormers: What went wrong?



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Newlands was stunned on Friday night and many spectators trudged away from the stadium wishing they had not come at all. The press corps were stunned – and so were the coach and the captain when asked what went wrong in the hiding the Western Force had just given them.

Coach Kobus van der Merwe and Luke Watson fielded questions put to them by a normally sympathetic press corps in the boardroom under the Grand Stand a half an hour after the match.

The first question went to the heart of the matter: what went wrong?

1. The Western Force had denied the Stormers starting possession.

The Stormers had had the chance to get starting possession from 11 line-outs, 11 scrums, 14 penalties, 3 free kicks and 2 drop-outs. Presumably what was meant was that the Western Force competed well at all those phases.

2. The penalty count was too high against us.

Of the 27 penalties in the match 14 were for the Stormers, 13 for the Western Force.

3. The scrums were the biggest worry. We were penalised five times in the scrums. That cost us 12 points. It was heart-breaking.

The Stormers were penalised twice in the scrums – once in each half.

There were four free kicks at scrums – two to each side.

4. We are not a side penalised often in scrums.

The Stormers were penalised once the week before and twice this week for scrum infringements and one of their props is regularly penalised.

5. Things went well in the line-out.

They did. The Stormers lost just one line-out and took six off the Western Force. The trouble is that the Stormers threw into 11 line-outs, the Force into 23. Take one from 11 and you have ten. Take six from 23 and you have 17. That means the Force got more possession from line-outs than the Stormers did.

The Stormers kicked out often and ran out too often, as if there was not enough respect for the touch-line.

6. It was not a problem of confidence or attitude. We were psyched up for the game. Last week it was a problem of attitude, this week of execution. If we can get attitude and execution right, things will be better.

7. The weather was bad.

8. Our defence was good. Their points came from our mistakes.

The defence was good for the Force were unable to construct a try, as indeed the Stormers were unable to construct a try.

The Force’s try came from a charged down kick. Their other points came from the boot – a conversion and five penalties. The Stormers only points came from a penalty. As the penalty count was roughly the same, one could have expected the Stormers to have the same number of shots at goal. But then they would have had to have been in the Force’s territory, which, mostly, they were not.

9. Life is hard for the loose forwards if there is no go-forward ball.

10. We turned too many balls over.

The Force competed with might and main at the tackle/ruck when the Stormers often had forwards cluttering up the backs or playing seagull around the fringes of the tackle/ruck. Six often beat two or three.

There was just not enough respect for the tackle ball.

11. There are no tight forwards in the Boland that we can use. We put over 60 points on them. We had expected that Daan Human would be with us, which is why we did not look for props but he is injured and not playing.

12. Watson: We are hurting. There are players in the team who will sleep badly tonight. Van der Merwe: The guys are trying.

Business executives, less well paid and much less glamorised, often have sleepless nights when the business is wobbly.

13. It’s not nice to be booed off the field or to be told at a traffic light to get the hell out of town.

True. Booing is ugly and so is rudeness. But there are jobs around town where nobody bothers about performance. They probably pay less.

Later coach John Mitchell and captain Nathan Sharpe came in for the Western Force. They were quiet but presumably happy.

They both spoke about “the conditions”, the drizzle that sieved down for much of the match. “We handled the conditions a bit better”, said Sharpe. “We played more for field position and kept the ball infield. Our kick chase was good.”

Mitchell said that a more expansive game was within his team’s capability. “We can play. But it was necessary to grind out a win in the conditions. For the rest we are going to have to play because bonus points will count.”

He thought that the Stormers’ problem was that they were always “chasing the game”.

Both Sharpe and Mitchell praised the spirit of their team, most of whom are not Western Australians.

Sharpe said: “We played for each other.”

Mitchell confirmed this and paid tribute to Sharpe as the welding force in the team.

Mitchell went on to say that there was a real rugby culture in Western Australia with many South Africans and New Zealanders living there. They have 16 clubs and are growing so that the Union has been required to acquire two more fields.

He said that the team’s aim was still to make the semi-finals and win the competition.

365 Digital

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