Vodacom Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe was reasonably satisfied with his team’s performance, particularly the first 60 minutes, in the Super 14 warm-up match against the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday at Newlands.
The home side lost 44-13, but they were not disgraced and surprised the much more experienced Bulls with a fiery onslaught in the first half.
“I think in the first 60 minutes we were very competititve. One or two guys really put up their hands to show they can make the step up to this level. I am obviously very disappointed in the last 20 minutes, when we took seven of the guys off as we wanted to give the other guys an opportunity,” said Van der Merwe.
“I think that is where we threw the game away a bit, in the last 20 minutes. But I think the first 60 minutes was a good effort.”
He singled out a few players. “I thought Dawid Hendricks played very well. Justin Melck, Naas Olivier and Joe Pietersen also did well.”
Van der Merwe said Hendricks put in a superb effort. “He has not played at No 8 for a long while, but he’s got a very good feel for the game. His cover defence was good. His carrying of the ball was excellent and he was strong on defence.”
Naas Olivier, the new recruit from the Leopards, started off brightly at flyhalf, but the heavy Bulls forwards targeted his channel on the attack and he really felt the heat.
Van der Merwe, however, was optimistic that Olivier could do a job for him in the Super 14. “He showed a lack of experience. He still needs to work on his decision-making and a restart that went straight over the touchline cost us a try as the Bulls scored from the scrum.
“However, I thought his goal-kicking was superb. That is what we’ve been lacking for a long time. He will grow with experience.”
The coach also lauded scrumhalf Paul Delport and said when he left the field to make way for Charl Blom just before halftime it affected the team. “Again, experience at this level is important. Paul did brilliantly on the cover defence, but then he tried to kick it out from behind his own try-line instead of just taking the five metre scrum, where the defence is organized again.”
Van der Merwe was not too worried about the heavy penalty count against the Stormers. “One must not lose sight that this was our first actual contact game that we played. They had a game last week already.
“There are certain areas where we will improve with time and games. But yes, at the breakdown we gave away too many penalties.”
The coach was happy with the way his jumpers manage to disrupt the highly rated Bulls lineout in the first half. “I think we stole four of their balls in the first half. I must say, talking about the physicality of the Bulls, in the first half we were definitely not overpowered by the Bulls.
“Guys like Attie Winter and Henk Eksteen were quite good.”
Van der Merwe said there was no serious injury concerns in the camp. Tonderai Chavhanga had to withdraw before the game because of the same leg injury that bothered him for the past four months.
He will, however, be considered for Saturday’s final warm-up game against the Southern Spears at Wellington, added Van der Merwe.