Assistant coach Dawie Snyman admits the Stormers were caught off guard by the Vodacom Bulls’ kicking game in Pretoria. DYLAN JACK reports.
Guided by a Man of the Match performance from Handré Pollard, the Bulls put the Stormers back three under enormous pressure with some well-placed and well-timed kicks.
In fact, the Bulls kicked out of hand 39 times in the Vodacom Super Rugby north-south clash, nearly twice as much as the Stormers, who had almost 60% of the possession at Loftus Versfeld.
Speaking after their first training session since the 40-3 loss, Snyman said the Stormers were surprised by the way the Bulls used the boot to put them under pressure.
‘We expected line speed because of what we had in the [Currie Cup] semi-final,’ Snyman said. ‘So that wasn’t a surprise to us.
‘The aspect that surprised us, because we thought they kept the ball well at Cape Town Stadium, is they kicked a lot more. They turned us and found a lot of space against us. At altitude, it is difficult to ask your pack to work and run the kind of distance that we had to.’
The use of the boot as an attacking weapon is definitely becoming a trend, with Eddie Jones’ England having also utilised it to set up their recent 44-8 victory over France in the Six Nations. In that game, England took advantage of France’s makeshift back three as wing Johnny May notched up a hat-trick of tries in 30 minutes.
Snyman said the Stormers needed to bring a similar kicking game into their attacking strategy.
‘One thing was how [Bulls fullback] Warrick Gelant defended last weekend. He was almost in the line the whole time. We did not identify that space well enough as a team. Whatever space a team gives you, you need to take it. England showed it against France and the Bulls did it, especially with the combination of the left and right footer. They found space in behind us and turned us nicely.’
Towards the end of Monday’s training session, some of the Stormers backline players, including fullback Dillyn Leyds, were practising kicking into the corners of the field.
Leyds admitted he was left frustrated at Loftus, unable to launch counter-attacks from some of the Bulls’ kicks downfield.
‘The Bulls defence was pretty good on the weekend,’ he said. ‘I made a very bad judgement call when I ran into Trevor Nyakane, I thought he would slide off me and he stayed and that wasn’t fun for me.
‘I must give them credit, Warrick and Handré kicked really well and I found myself at the back alone most times because our wingers had to adjust to their running game.
‘We have spoken about that and hopefully we can sort it out because we like to throw the ball around. That has been one of our threats, counter-attacking and running from the back.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) February 18, 2019
Photo: Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images