There was no euphoria, sabre-rattling or bold prediction about the forthcoming season, but the Vodacom Stormers leadership seemed satisfied with their team’s performance in the 43-33 win over English club side Saracens in their opening warm-up match at Newlands on Sunday.
“It was the kind of performance you want – it wasn’t brilliant, it wasn’t bad, and there were lots of things shown in the match that we now know we need to work on in the coming week,” said coach Rassie Erasmus afterwards.
Erasmus disagreed with Saracens director of rugby Eddie Jones’s view that the Stormers scrum was a shambles, and pointed to mitigating circumstances.
“We have three tightheads out at the moment, but two of those will be back shortly. We had Brian Mujati withdraw at a late hour with an injury that is not too serious but we must be careful of, and with Brian out we didn’t want to risk JC Kritzinger, who also has a minor injury, while Brok Harris is out for a couple of weeks,” said Erasmus.
“Brian and JC should be back soon. Considering the circumstances, with Wicus Blaauw moving to tighthead, I was satisfied with our scrumming.”
Erasmus said that while his team had been guilty of trying to force passes at times, and this had let them down on attack, he was pleased with the structure shown by the first choice team before substitutions were made in the second half.
“We made a lot of changes in the second half, which you do in a warm-up game like this. I thought our defence was good. I was a little sorry that guys like Nick Koster and Alapati Fehelati did not get more of a chance to run with the ball, because we were defending most of the time when they came on, but hopefully that will change when we play Boland next week. If you consider we had quite a few players missing for this game, and that Saracens are a strong side, this wasn’t a bad first performance.”
He did admit though that Saracens had done better against his team in the collisions than he expected, but felt it might have been because Saracens were primed to play to full penalties at the breakdowns, something that might have helped them on this occasion.
Erasmus said one of the biggest positives was that his team had got through a hard, bruising work-out with no major injuries, although flanker Francois Louw does have a knee ailment that will be checked by the medical staff on Monday.
Schalk Burger and Conrad Jantjes are expected to be available for the Wellington match against Saracens, when Erasmus hopes to give most of his second stringers a run.