The Vodacom Stormers lost a scrappy Vodacom Super 14 match against the Crusaders 11-7 in Christchurch on Saturday.
The halftime score was 8-7 and the only consolation the Stormers can take away from this game is the fact they earned a bonus point for losing within five points.
Coach Rassie Erasmus and his men would not be happy with this under-par performance. They had a gilt-edged opportunity to climb the ladder but now have a mountain to climb if they want to stay in contention for the play-offs.
The Stormers were just a shadow of the side that played such enterprising rugby in their last match, against the Lions two weekends ago at Newlands. There was some early promise though when No 8 Luke Watson stepped and spun out of four tackles to score in the 11th minute from a free kick.
Flyhalf Willem de Waal converted to make the score 7-0 but after that they failed to live up to the promise.
The Crusaders were not much better than the Stormers. They also battled to string movements together and the game was characterized by aimless kicking, handling errors (both teams made 13), collapsed scrums and just generally poor rugby.
Crusaders flyhalf Stephen Brett kicked a penalty in the 24th minute after offside play by the visitors.
A beautiful kick from inside centre Peter Grant gave Stormers flank Duane Vermuelen the opportunity to poach a lineout ball five meters from the Crusades try-line. The Stormers attacked ferociously but they were penalised for going off their feet and the Saders kicked the ball away to ease the pressure.
Crusaders scrumhalf Andy Ellis would probably kick himself for spurning a great try-scoring chance in the 30th minute when he knocked on with an open line after a kick and chase from Brett.
The home side got their try in the 33th minute when wing Adam Whitelock finished a smooth movement accentuated by good passing in the corner to hand his side the lead (8-7).
The second half was a bit better than the second. De Waal failed with a penalty in the 44th minute and Springbok fullback Conrad Jantjes replaced him in the 47th. Jantjes went to wing, with Grant moving to flyhalf and wing Gcobani Bobo to outside centre. Jean de Villiers, who started his 50th game for the Stormers at outside centre, went to inside centre.
The Stormers endured some nervous moments in the 49th minute when they lock Adriaan Fondse – who had a big game – won a lineout on his own try-line and wing Sereli Naqelevuki knocked it on behind his try-line. Good defence thwarted the subsequent Crusaders attack.
The Crusaders clinched the game via a Brett penalty in the 75th minute. The Stormers now tackle the Waratahs next week.