The Stormers proved tactically and physically superior in their 31-11 win against the Brumbies at Newlands on Saturday.
Call it a statement. On Saturday, the Stormers beat the form team of the 2016 tournament.
They played a powerful yet smart brand of rugby. In the final quarter, it was the Stormers who showed more composure than their Brumbies counterparts.
The Stormers scrum matched that of the Australian franchise. The Stormers lineout had the better of a Brumbies combination that boasted Wallabies of the calibre of Sam Carter and Scott Fardy.
And at the gainline, it was the Stormers who kept going forward. While David Pocock did his best to influence the breakdowns, he was kept relatively quiet by a hungry and determined Stormers pack. Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi were massive for the hosts in this area.
What marked this Stormers performance as noteworthy was their change in approach. Kurt Coleman had one of his best games in a Stormers jersey, and did so as a more tactical flyhalf.
Through the likes of Coleman and Kolbe, the Stormers sought to test the Brumbies early on with a series of garryowens. Brumbies fullback Aidan Toua managed to diffuse said bombs, but his own kicking was of a lower standard.
Coleman and Kolbe were also quick to boot the ball into the space behind the Brumbies defence. Thanks to the slick execution of this game plan, the Stormers bossed the territory stats.
For 65 minutes, the game was an arm-wrestle. The Brumbies fought hard to stay in the game. Their attack enjoyed some success out on the right-hand flank, where they cut the Stormers defence on several occasions.
And then, in the period leading up to half-time, Tevita Kuridrani broke the Stormers line to set up Henry Speight for a try. Kuridrani showed terrific skill to find the right wing with a long spiralling pass. The Stormers went to the break with a 9-5 lead, a lead that wasn’t reflective of their dominance.
The Stormers stuck to their game plan in the second stanza. Coleman continued to oblige with some accurate tactical kicking into space. The hosts succeeded in keeping the Brumbies pinned back in their own territory.
And finally, in the 56th minute, the Stormers crossed the line through Kolisi. The subsequent conversion by Coleman was just as significant, as it stretched the Stormers’ lead to eight points.
Christian Leali’ifano narrowed the gap to five points in 61st minute. At that point, the Brumbies were still in the contest. Had they maintained their discipline in the final quarter, they may have gone on to complete a comeback victory.
As it was, they went a man down in the 65th minute. Replacement hooker Josh Mann-Rea lost his temper and threw several punches at Stormers reserve prop Oli Kebble. After consulting the TMO Marius Jonker, referee Jaco Peyper showed Mann-Rea a red card.
The Brumbies were forced to compete with 14 men for the final 15 minutes. The handicap told, as the visitors leaked as many as 15 points in that period.
The win is a big one for the Stormers. They will go to Argentina next week with plenty of confidence. They will know that they can win a tactical arm-wrestle of this nature, even against a team that is as well drilled as the Brumbies.
The Brumbies will lament their own lack of physicality and tactical precision. They will have much to rectify in the coming weeks.
STORMERS – 31
Tries : Siya Kolisi (54),Dillyn Leyds (76),Vincent Koch (80)
Penalties : Kurt Coleman (6,16,37,64)
Cons : Kurt Coleman (56),Jean-Luc du Plessis (80)
BRUMBIES – 11
Tries : Henry Speight(28)
Penalties : Christian Lealiifano (45,60)
Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (c), 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe (c), 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Leolin Zas.
Brumbies – 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Joseph Tomane, 10 Christian Leali’ifano, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jordan Smiler, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Robbie Coleman, 23 Nigel Ah Wong.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)