They will take the two points, but the Investec Stormers are definitely not happy with the performance in the 16-16 draw against the Highlanders in their Super 12 game at Rugby Park in Invercargill on Saturday.
That was the verdict of Stormers captain, Neil de Kock. The scrumhalf said they need to improve considerably if they want to beat the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday. The Brumbies, without a few injured stalwarts and scrumhalf George Gregan (Tsunami game) still managed to beat the Bulls on Friday.
De Kock said several areas of their game needs to be worked on this week. He singled out the discipline, ball control and first-line defence as the main problems against the Highlanders.
They enjoyed most of the possession and territory in the first half, but at the end of the game they only had 42% possession and 46% territory. The team also conceded 12 penalties, which enabled the Highlandes to salvage a draw after a shaky start to the game.
De Kock said he didn’t want to lay the blame for the somewhat subdued second-half performance on jet lag. The Stormers had to travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg to Sydney before settling down in Manley. On Thursday they flew to Christchurch before making their way to Invercargill by bus.
“I don’t think it was too bad. We played against the Sharks on Friday, so we had that extra day to recover. We settled in nicely in Manly, so we were well-rested. There are no excuses there.
“We are not renowned for being a great wet weather side, although in the first half it was okay. In the second half it was not, because we made silly mistakes and conceded silly penalties through bad discipline.
“We didn’t adhere to the offside line and we were caught with our hands in the ruck too often. Like Craig (Newby, the Highlanders captain) said: it is not good to draw, I wish there were no draws in this competition. It is a numb feeling.”
De Kock added that while the Stormers are not happy with the draw, they will take the two points they earned for it.
He expressed concern about the fact that the Stormers ball control was not good, while also lamenting the first-line slip-ups on defence, particularly in the second half.
Flank Gerrie Britz was helped off the field in the second half on Saturday with what seemed to be a knee injury. They will be boosted by the return to the squad of fiery flank Schalk Burger, who missed the Highlanders game because of the Tsunami game in London on Saturday.
Newby handed the Stormers a massive compliment after the game when the said the team from Cape Town is “by far the best South African team in the competition.”
He added: “They seem to travel well and we have huge respect for them.”
The flank, who scored his side’s try, said they tried to play dry weather rugby in the first half. “The Stormers tackled well and put pressure on us. We couldn’t get our game going.”
Coach Gert Smal said he was happy with the performance of the players who came into the team for the first time. “All of them put their hand up and I think the experiment with bringing in the more experienced players as replacements also worked well.”