Vodacom Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus on Friday evening admitted he was a relieved man after his side had to stave off a massive second-half onslaught from the Reds before winning their Vodacom Super 14 second round match 27-24 at Newlands.
The Stormers enjoyed a healthy 27-5 lead but then went to sleep in the final 20 minutes – almost enabling the Queenslanders to clinch what would have been a huge upset victory.
The Cape franchise scored three tries after conceding a try as early as the 2nd minute and looked to be well on their way to getting a bonus point for scoring four tries. The team however went off the boil and their coach admitted the disappointing final quarter display cost them a bonus point for four tries.
“It’s almost a cliché but the way the Reds play makes it very difficult to defend. We saw that against the Bulls, where they almost played a brand like touch rugby. We were also awful in the last 20 minutes,” he said.
“At 27-5, perhaps we thought it was in the bag. We have to take this on the chin, myself included.”
The Stormers have become renowned for their tough defence and Erasmus said this was the first time the Stormers had conceded four tries since he took over the coaching last season. He blamed poor application of the defensive system and the lack of synergy for an incomplete performance.
“The guys defended with a lot of heart, but they defended as individuals. This was the first time there have been defensive system errors and it’s obviously something we have to look at.”
The Stormers had plenty of opportunities on attack and the coach singled out instances where Schalk Brits and Luke Watson were hauled in after making a break in broken play. He said those were the kind of opportunities his side needed to convert.
“We didn’t get the balance right,” said Erasmus. “You just have to say that on the day, we weren’t good enough to put them away. You can’t blame it on bad luck.”
Erasmus was pleased with the forward effort, especially the scrumming and lineout work. The loose trio of Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen and Watson at No 8 also gained his stamp of approval.
He said Watson played well and added he was fortunate to have five top loose-forwards to rotate.
Captain Jean de Villiers was happy with the win but admitted the overall performance was not up to scratch.
“We aren’t happy with the way we played, but we have to be happy with the four points. And there are no serious injuries which is a huge plus.
“We had plenty of opportunities. That’s the margins of this game, if I had held onto that intercept, we would have won comfortably and secured the bonus point,” De Villiers said. He said he expected “a hell of a tough game” against the Blues at Newlands next weekend.
Reds coach Phil Mooney praised his side despite the defeat. “I think coming back from that position showed the team spirit we’ve developed over the last year,” Mooney said. “We worked well together and dug deep.
“I think we’ve taken our game forward in the last year. The Stormers are certainly one of the major threats in the tournament and in that context I thought we did well.”