New Stormers smash toothless Lions
The Stormers produced their best half of the year to smash a very ordinary Lions team 18-3 at Newlands on Saturday.
It was just the second win of the year for the men from Cape Town, in a game in which they scored all their points before the break – including two great tries – and then settled back into a dour defensive game in the second half.
For the Lions, who suffered their third successive loss, there was simply no positives from the game.
The Lions were forced into a couple of last-minute changes – captain Warren Whiteley failing a fitness test and lock Martin Muller suffering from a stomach bug. Warwick Tecklenburg and Rudi Matthee were flown in from Johannesburg on Saturday morning to sit on the bench – with Willie Britz and Luvuyiso Lusaseni moving into the starting XV.
However, the most prominent feature was the Stormers' more expansive approach to the game – spinning the ball wide, making use of quick-tap penalties and generally playing with more energy and physicality.
It was enjoyable to watch, a far cry for the dour dreck dished up by the Cape Town outfit in the first half of the season.
Maybe their execution slipped in the second half and they also got over-excited at times, but the first 40 was already way better than anything they dished up this year.
It was a visit by Henning Gericke, a sport psychologist who helped South Africa at their victorious 2007 World Cup campaign, that is accredited with the dramatic mindshift and better attitude of the Stormers.
The Lions were also paying the price for starting with a scrumhalf, Ross Cronje, who is no better than Varsity Cup level. It meant there was no sign of any momentum, or the visitors getting their free-flowing game going.
The selection of Chrysander Botha at fullback, another player nowhere near Super Rugby standard, also became costly as the game wore on.
The rot seemed to affect other players, who were making basic errors that cost the team dearly – especially in the line-outs, where the men from Johannesburg looked like rank amateurs.
Even in the second half, when Francois de Klerk replaced Cronjé the earlier errors had left too much of a deficit to make up.
In the second minute Dimitri Catrakilis slotted a penalty, after Luvuyiso Lusaseni was caught on the wrong side of a ruck. Peter Grant made that 6-0 in the 15th minute – after the assistant referee ruled a deliberate knock-down.
In the 21st minute Stormers hooker Deon Fourie was yellow carded for an act of thuggery – charging with his pointed shoulder into the back of a Lions player well off the ball.
Marnitz Boshoff missed a rare kick at goal and Grant hit the upright with a penalty of his own minutes later.
The Stormers were fortunate they were not reduced to 13 men, after Michael Rhodes dumped Stefan Watermeyer after lifting him beyond the horizontal.
There was more good fortune for the home team – a quick-tap after a questionable penalty resulted in Damien de Allende getting the first try after some great interplay. If the source of the penalty and play was debate, the execution was certainly worthy of the points.
The second try was even more impressive – Nizaam Carr getting the five-pointer after the Stormers ran back at the Lions from a poor attempted clearance. Jaco Taute and De Allende were both prominent in exposing the Lions' frail defence.
Grant. who had missed the first conversion, slotted the second – the score going from 6-0 to 18 in the 10 minutes that Fourie was off the field.
The Stormers hooker was very fortunate for not getting a second yellow card, after the referee warned him about repeated infringements at the breakdown – three of them in quick succession. However, he ended the half by winning a turnover penalty metres from his own line.
It was a different Lions team coming out after the break, attacking in waves and in the 44th minute getting reward in the form of a Marnitz Boshoff penalty.
The rest of the half turned into a dour error-riddle scrap, with the Stormers once again happy to defend the big lead they had built up before the break.
The Lions' game was now so riddled with errors that even though they enjoyed small passages of dominance with ball in hand, they were unable to covert anything into points.
And the game ended with a comedy of errors by the Lions – gifting the Stormers only their second win of the season.
Man of the match: You can look at many individual players in the Stormers team – Jean de Villiers, Nic Groom, Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi, Nizaam Carr and Michael Rhodes – who made valuable contributions. However, the biggest change was made not on the field, but off it, and our award goes to sport psychologist Henning Gericke for finally getting the best out of the many talented players in the Stormers squad.
For the Stormers:
Tries: De Allende, Carr
Pens: Catrakilis, Grant
For the Lions:
Yellow card: Deon Fourie (Stormers, 21 – foul play, shoulder charge into the back of a player way off the ball)
Stormers: 15 Peter Grant, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Michael Rhodes, 4 Ruan Botha, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Devon Williams, 23 Jaco Taute.
Lions: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie (captain), 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Luvuyiso Lusaseni, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Rudi Matthee, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21 Francois de Klerk, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Jacobus Jonker.
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa) Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)