The Stormers' defeat against the Chiefs in Hamilton was no surprise, writes MARK KEOHANE.
This is the weakest Stormers unit in six years. It is also the most confused in terms of game plan.
The Stormers built their reputation as a no-nonsense defensive unit in the past few years. They were a difficult team to beat. They relied on a no-risk policy of attack, on opposition mistakes and on a superb defensive structure.
It was effective to win league games but the game plan lacked the balance to win the competition. The Stormers struggled to score tries and they were not a side capable of chasing a game. In both home semi-finals they got blown away because the Crusaders and Sharks respectively got a good start and enjoyed healthy leads. It proved Western Province’s undoing in the Currie Cup final in 2013. Same players, same coach and the same limitations. Western Province or the Stormers … it is one and the same.
I thought the Stormers would be more competitive in Hamilton but there was no way anyone could have expected them to win on form or squad ability.
Those who backed a Stormers win would have done so out of hope and not any belief based on a rugby argument.
The Stormers, in terms of the evolution of their game have gone from a state of stagnation to regression.
The coaching staff offers nothing that can improve the side. They’ve been around for seven years and with each year the chances of the Stormers winning the competition have looked less likely.
Currently, I would rank the Stormers the worst of the South African sides. Winning a Currie Cup final two seasons ago was the worst thing that could have happened because it meant the failures in Super Rugby were ignored. Western Province were a lineout away from going out in the semi-final. They won in the last move of the game and then surprised a star-studded Sharks outfit who failed to recognise the occasion and had the intent of a team who felt they had the final won before kick-off.
I was bleak about the Stormers' prospects this season because of the lack of recruiting, no progression in the game plan and squad limitations. It is not because of an anti-Stormers bias.
The reality is they are a limited side and this unit is trading on the defensive history of the squads from 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger are two great players but the duo don’t make for a competition-winning team.
The Stormers don’t have influential halfbacks, they have an ordinary back three, they have two average locks and they have a front row that is good without being dominant.
Defence comes with attitude and the Stormers squad don’t have the attitude of those who implemented a defensive game plan successfully in the league stages.
They are also a team who can no longer rely on a no-risk approach. They were easily beaten and 16 points was a reflection of the difference in the two sides.
The margin of defeat is disappointing but not the nature of it. The Stormers performance in Hamilton is a reflection of the quality of the side and the limitations of the coaching staff.
The Stormers, as a team, can be summarised in the last five-minute performance. They needed to score one try to win the game and they conceded two. They did not know how to attack and the go-to man at No 10 – replacement Peter Grant – was the same player who wasn’t good enough four years ago.
It is going to be a struggle this season for the Stormers. They will lose more than they win.
Hindsight was not needed to know that the Stormers were never going to be a top-six team in 2014. Our preview on this site reflected the reality of a situation.
And the Stormers in Hamilton confirmed our sentiments.
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images