What, you may well ask has the headline got to do with this match. Let me explain.
What I truly love about rugby, apart from the obvious, is that every week, you learn some thing new. Rugby is such a dynamic sport, evolving and changing week in and week out. Just when you think you can walk into the pub, head held high, take centre stage, and finally tell the rest of the rabble, with knowledgable conviction, how to play the game, you come up short. That nerd, the one with the glasses, who spent his entire rugby career on the bench, just waiting desperately for the coach to look his way, give him the nod, and let him go and take him take over the flag duty from the linesman (yes, I’m that old!) for the last 30 seconds of the match which has been written off anyway, successfully counteracts your argument, and you look like a fool again. Thats rugby. Well this week I learnt about swimming. Yup, I know that there will be a few of you who won’t have a clue what I am talking about. Welcome to my pub!
During last night’s match at Newlands, Craig Joubert, twice, accused the Waratahs of ‘swimming’ during a driving maul. Now, you know exactly what I mean, you’ve all seen it, and Joubert has come up with the perfect technical term for the maneuver. I will forever and a day, imagine hardened locks gently doing breast stroke in a leasure pool every time I see a driving maul.
Couple that thought with the fact that we’re up against the Guppies in the Shark Tank next weekend, in a situation, where we we will be doing a lot of swimming against the tide, and the fact that the most famous South African inland open water race is called the Midmar Mile, and you have it.
Back to last nights game though. Not much to report back really, it’s becoming a bit like a stuck record in the presser now, same thing said week after week, same excuses, and same questions. Only difference this week was the long silences between questions as the usually ‘not lost for words’ hacks struggled to formulate any meaningful original questions, and Jebb Sinclair, who was rolled in to ‘officially’ meet the press. But more of that in a bit.
Waratahs coach Michael Foley and Captain Rocky Epsom were first to give their account of the match. A match which, like so many before began by promising so much, but ended with most of us tearing our hair out again. A match in which saw the Stormers running in two tries in the first half, only to hit a severe drought again in the second. Amatch in which the Stormers came out all guns blazing in the first half, only to be replaced by a sleepathon in the second. A match where the opposition rued the fact that they allowed the Stormers to get too far ahead in the first half, only finding the mountain just s step too high in the second. It’s all become far to familiar.
“We went out and won the second half, but it was too many points in the end for us to catch (the Stormers), 10-3 in the second half, we made those little adjustments, …but some of the issues we had in the first half probably let us down”, Foley said when asked if 16-3 at the end of the first half was just too much of a mountain to climb.
The Waratahs, known more for their running game, made the conscious decision to veer slightly off course for this match and use the kicking game more. Foley felt that the Stormers “would put us in a position where they had a very good kick-chase”, and would look to isolate the back three. He felt that the way to counter this, was through the use of more “contestable kicks” to reverse the situation. If nothing else, it must be seen as a compliment to the Stormers that the other teams in the competition are having to change their styles to try to counteract the Stormers attack.
Rocky Epsom, a man with a sense of humour that must have been given to a lamp post at birth, felt that they needed to adapt the the refs interpretations a bit better, and when asked about the long conversation at the end of the match, said that “our conversation was nothing of any serious nature”. When pressed further as to whether he would be having that cup of coffee next week in Bloemfontein to discuss the match, he replied, without even a hint of humour, “ I’m not a coffee drinker”. Wow, he really must be the life and soul of the party!
As for the injuries to the Waratahs, Sitaleki Timpani, who went off early with a shoulder injury is being assessed today, and Dean Mumm, who was concussed in the second half was lucid by the end of the match, but will be doubtful for next week.
Without delving too much into the Stormers interview, suffice to say that there are no real injury concerns, Kolisi and Bekker’s substituion was just precautionary, just some rest required before next weeks tough match.
De Villiers felt that the backline performed much better this week, and overall was very pleased with the overall performance of the team. There had to be a change in the second half, he said, because of the rain, and felt that again, his men performed very well in this regard. I will leave up to you to make up your own minds about that second half performance. What I do know, is that the Stormers won’t get away with another performance like that against either the Sharks or the Bulls.
As mentioned earlier, Toetie brought Jebb Sinclair to the press conference in order to “introduce him to you guys properly”. You could almost hear the sense of relief from the floor – at last, we can ask a new question. The normal stuff came out – where are you living, are you enjoining SA, is the S15 a huge step up, have you learnt any Afrikaans. The questions were flowing, once again. Sadly, we all know the answers before they’re even answered, so no need to go there, suffice to say that the highly intellectual rugby hacks that abounded the room were able to leave with a sense of ‘mission accomplished, and thats my next pay cheque inn the bag’!
It is also interesting to note that Jebb did have a sense of humour – strange for a Canadian, and even stranger that that when faced with both an Australian and a Canadian, it should be the Canadian that steals the show with his wit. Jebb, now residing in Camps Bay for the duration of his stay with the Stormers was asked, if given the opportunity, and if a Stormers contract was offered for next year to him, would he consider staying, he answered, “if it comes with the house in Camps Bay”.
The Stormers have a hard road from here on in, two away matches against arguably two of the best teams in the competition, three internationals, where a number of the side have realistic chances of being part of, and then its the Lions, Cheetahs, and Rebels. Although at least two of the last three should be in the bag, and should see the Stormers through, a very long and tiring season awaits.
This week sees the Stormers atop of the log again. For a team that, week after week, has been given little chance, and for a team that has managed to pick up just one bonus point, it’s not too bad a return on the season so far. What counts in the end, is where you are on the log. Ten wins from eleven matches has kept the Stormers up there, and that is what history will see.
On a final note, this weekends round of matches, saw 1715 posts on the live match threads involving all the Super Rugby games, with the most posts for a single match going to the Stormers/Waratahs clash, with a total of 372 posts. A great result for rugby-talk. Posts ranging from knowledgable rugby insights, to light hearted and friendly banter, but not one negative or incitful comment. Now thats the rugby that I enjoy. Credit to GBS. Thanks, mate, and long may it continue.
Joe Pietersen 17m
Tiaan Liebenberg 33m
Rob Horne 43m
Peter Grant 0/2 (0%)
Brendan McKibbin 1/1 (100%)
Peter Grant 2/2 (100%)
Joe Pietersen 1/1 (100%)
Brendan McKibbin 2/3 (66%)
Bernard Foley 0/1 (0%)
|0||FREE KICKS CONCEDED||0|
|51%||TIME IN OPP. HALF||49%|
|5:18||TIME IN OPP. 22||2:42|
Stats courtesy of rugby stats.com
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Don Armand, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Waratahs: 15 Bernard Foley, 14Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 11 Atieli Pakalani, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Dave Dennis, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Rocky Elsom (captain), 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 John Mann-Rea, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Kane Douglas, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Dave Dennis, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Daniel Halangahu.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Christie du Preez (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)