Coach John Dobson and captain Steven Kitshoff have hailed the Stormers’ composure to weather Ulster’s kicking game and hold on for a tense victory on Saturday.
The Stormers successfully defended a three-point lead in the final 20 minutes to claim a vital win over second-placed Ulster in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship match at Cape Town Stadium.
Dobson’s side were under pressure for almost the entirety of the second half as they were pinned back by Ulster’s excellent tactical kicking game.
Following the win, Dobson spoke highly of the Stormers’ ability to win ugly, after showing the flashier side of their gameplan in the preceding matches against Cardiff and Zebre.
“It was courageous,” Dobson said post-match. “There were elements of our game which are important for our growth that came out, like the scrum plan. We started with Kitsie [Steven Kitshoff] and Frans [Malherbe] and the replacements probably bailed us out.
“But that was the plan. We had Frans for 40 minutes and Kitsie for an hour. Then we had two almost international-level props in Brok and Neethling coming on. It was the plan to get some reward there, but not necessarily win the game that way.
“Some of our maul defence was superb,” Dobson added.
“In the last couple of weeks, we have been known for the flash and everything. But we were up against one of the best club teams in Europe. They really played well. The way they trapped us with those contestable kicks. So, we had to show some courage and find other ways to win it. To give credit to Steven and co, they did.
“We can’t say we deserved it, we were on the ropes. But we stuck in the fight and we will learn a lot from this.”
The win has the Stormers leapfrogging the Sharks on the URC table after the Durban side ended South Africa’s home winning run against overseas opposition by losing to Scottish side Edinburgh in Durban.
The Stormers, who next face Welsh side Ospreys before taking on the Vodacom Bulls in Cape Town, are also closing in on the top four, which seemed out of distance at the beginning of this year.
“We were under the pump with that kicking game. Our discipline also went. I don’t know whether those two issues are related. We gave only four penalties away against Cardiff, seven or eight against Zebre and today we were in the mid-teens. I think it was because we were under pressure so much.
“I don’t think we played poorly. We were just up against a really good team who effected a really good plan and they put us under a lot of pressure. But, we withstood that pressure.
“It obviously means a lot to us in terms of the log and competition. You can say we dropped a point today, but we nearly dropped four or five.
“If you think we are going to play the Bulls in two weeks, our maul defence, the scrum, the improvements we can make in terms of the kicking game and discipline, I think we are really well posed for that game. We know that we can attack with panache.”
Kitshoff added that he was pleased with his teammates’ temperament and said their performance showed their winning mentality.
“It wasn’t a pretty performance from us, but the amount of character and willingness to win showed towards the end there,” Kitshoff said. “Guys pitching up and getting those scrum penalties on our own line towards the end there just shows that this team is willing to do anything for the victory.
“This win will give us a lot of momentum and confidence. We just need to keep building on it and do the work during the week so we can execute better.”
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