Five lessons from the Vodacom Super Rugby play-off qualifiers, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Stormers need bigger backs
There was only going to be one outcome when 101kg Brumbies wing Joe Tomane decided to run at Dillyn Leyds, who weighs just 80kg. The Stormers wing was embarrassingly handed off by his bigger opponent, who went on to score his third try of the match. The Brumbies were also able to isolate the smaller Stormers backs with good tactical kicks that brought the visitors' big wingers into play. Tomane's second try came after his side had kicked onto Leyds, who was swamped by the 97kg Henry Speight. The Brumbies then flooded the breakdown, forced the turnover and sent the ball wide to Tomane. Damian de Allende was the only Stormers back on Saturday who weighed more than 90kg and that lack of size was exploited by their opponents. The Cape franchise needs to find bigger, taller backs, especially in the back three, for the 2016 tournament.
Always take the three points
The Stormers were trailing 10-3 after 18 minutes of the match at Newlands when they turned down a shot at goal and kicked for the corner instead. It was a bizarre decision considering they had the tournament's best goal-kicker, Demetri Catrakilis, at flyhalf and the Brumbies have been the best defensive team in Super Rugby this season. Instead of reducing the deficit to six, the hosts conceded another try soon after to find themselves 14 points down. History shows that it's wise to take the three points when they're on offer (unless a team is already well behind and has no choice but to push for tries), but even more so in a do-or-die game.
The Stormers lineout remains a lottery
Whatever work the Cape franchise put into this set piece over the past two weeks did not pay off on Saturday. The Stormers lost five of their own throws, with overthrows costing them on a couple of occasions when they were in good attacking positions. The misfiring lineout also meant that kicking penalties into the corner, and not at the posts, was always going to be a gamble, rather than a sure way to keep the Brumbies under pressure.
Waisake Naholo is the most lethal finisher in Highlanders history
The winger's two tries in Dunedin on Saturday saw him break Jeff Wilson's franchise record of 10 achieved in the 1998 season and become the top try-scorer in this year's tournament. It came as no surprise when Naholo was on Sunday named in the All Blacks' 41-man squad for the Rugby Championship. Fiji's loss will be New Zealand's gain.
Aaron Smith is a match-winner
The Highlanders scrumhalf created both of Naholo's tries in Dunedin. During the first half, he broke away from a scrum on halfway, passed to Naholo, got the ball back again and then put the winger over in the corner. Early in the second half, Smith again went blind from a scrum, this time from 5m out, and gave the try-scoring pass to Naholo. And it was Smith's break in the third minute of the match, when he seemed set to kick but instead took off, that resulted in Patrick Osborne diving over in the left-hand corner several phases later. It would have been a contender for try of the season had the TMO not harshly ruled that Naholo had gone into touch before passing the ball earlier in the move. Smith showed in Dunedin how vital he is to the Highlanders' cause and why many consider him to be the one player the All Blacks can least afford to be without.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images