Stormers blast through Chiefs with skill
The moment that told you everything about the Stormers’ title credentials in this year’s Super Rugby season came in the 52nd minute of this absolute stonker of a game.
The Chiefs were on the attack and wee Cheslin Kolbe intercepted and hacked ahead before the similarly slight figure of Dillyn Leyds set off in pursuit of the loose ball.
Once there, he lost his balance, but then he threw a miracle pass – a no-look reverse effort while sitting on his backside – and it fell perfectly into advancing fullback SP Marais’ hands to canter in.
Up until then, the Stormers had relied on heavy-handed antics up front while their visitors dazzled at every opportunity.
But that bit of gold dust proved the hosts have the application, desire and, most importantly, the necessary skill of title contenders.
The result was that they consigned the Chiefs to their first defeat of the season, themselves remaining unbeaten after six games to lead Africa Conference 1 by a whopping 17 points.
There was no shortage of performers in a team effort – Kolbe, Marais, Robert du Preez and any number of forwards – but it was captain Siya Kolisi’s workaholic nature that epitomised the effort.
There was a push and shove fest in the opening minute as Liam Messam mouthed off like an angry warthog, and as rookie flanker Cobus Wiese got himself sin-binned.
Thankfully, the game itself didn’t descend into a typically scrappy derby. The collisions were of carwreck proportions and the tempo brought to the match by the visitors was not only frightening, it also fractured the hosts’ defensive structures.
From early on, it became apparent that the game would be played along two basic lines – the Stormers’ forwards and the Chiefs’ quicksilver backs – as the five tries scored in the first half alone showed.
All three of the Stormers’ efforts, by eighthman Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Kolisi and fly half Du Preez were essentially borne of picking and driving.
In contrast, the Chiefs scored their first five-pointer by running the ball through a maze of deft offloads – nine, to be exact – after fielding a kick just 5m from their own try line for wing Toni Pulu to score.
Meanwhile, the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs may be everyone’s favourites to bite the dust when Sanzar announces its decision to cull two South African teams and one Australian team from Super Rugby today, but SA Rugby still has to go through a process to decide who actually loses out.
The statement South African and Australian rugby has been dreading came out yesterday, saying that Sanzar chief executive Andy Marinos would make a Super Rugby-related announcement this morning after the conclusion of the Western Force and Southern Kings’ fixture – about 10am.
An SA Rugby insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the statement would be about how many teams from each country would miss out on the competition next year, in keeping with Sanzar’s resolution to trim the 18-team competition by three franchises.
But while the Kings and the Cheetahs may lose out because of a number of issues, including nonperformance, lack of crowd attendances and not really establishing a market for themselves, another SA Rugby official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said it wasn’t that cut and dried.
“We have a franchise meeting on Tuesday, so we’ll start working on it then,” he said.
GOING DOWN Dan du Plessis of the Stormers is tackled by Aaron Cruden of the Chiefs during their Super Rugby match at Newlands, Cape Town, yesterday