That has got to be the most brutal pack ever assembled by the Stormers that took the field on Saturday. Vermuelen, Etzebeth, Bekker & Elstadt are all over 6’5″, making the forwards a bone-crushing 30kg’s heavier than the Bulls pack. It’s not often that a Bulls pack looks like softened steak after 20 minutes of bashing it up. I thought it was inspired selection from Toetie (Allister Coetzee) and any other line-out, other than a Victor Matfield coached Bulls, would have been slinging the ball everywhere trying to get the ball to their jumpers. I thought the Bulls line-outs were outstanding, as were their scrums. Kruger and Greyling definitely had the up on Kitshoff and Harris for most of the first half.
The Cheetahs were also a revelation in the second half, although their performance in the first left them a mountain to climb. Defence coaching and a brutal tight 5 and these guys would be the Chiefs of the South African conference.
The Shorks got a good away win, but again played patchy rugby, allowing the Brumbies back into a game that they should never have been in.
…and as for the Lions, flippen hell. Crusaders never stepped out of the 3rd gear to be honest. they only really ratcheted up the play for 10 minutes after half-time and scored simple tries off of set-moves that were copy and pasted from the book of “back-line moves that work against SA-teams because they follow the man and not the ball”. Seriously? A simple hold-up and loop by Ellis and the whole Lions team froze like a chicken. They identified Mapoe early on as the weak link and weak he was. His speed was terrible and his defense was woeful. I think Mitchell’s plan was to give him 10 minutes, but this was thwarted by Kamana breaking down in the first 10 minutes. Strauss was yet again inspiration from the front and the Crusaders defense was woeful against the powerful drives of the Lions forwards.This looks like the template to beat them, or at least until Richie McCaw is back.
Here is the Bok XV
1) Coenie “2 try” Oosthuizen – the big lad gets about doesn’t he? Starting to put his hand up for Bok selection. Seems under the tutelage of Os to not be a penalty sink at scrum time anymore.
2) Tiaan Liebenberg – The clash between him and Chili was great to watch and Chili was oh so close to getting the nod ahead, but Liebenberg just shaded him today. Chili still remains one of the biggest menaces in the tight loose and must be just behind Bissie in turnovers won.
3) WP Nel – also on the team sheet under tries this week. Helped set the foundation for an awesome win at the Cake Tin.
4) Eben Etzebeth – for some background on Etzebeth read the Termintor article written by DarkBlue. On the field this weekend it was written in black and white just how powerful a driver he is through the contact. Able to force 2 men backwards through leg power and present the ball cleanly for the next phase.
5) Juandre Kruger – Ruler of the air and ruler of Bekker as yet again his work in the tight in a tight game was not the best.
6) Heinrich Brussow – Ruck formed? Who is it that is always hovering for the next phase to try and steal the ball? Brussow must make opposition forwards think twice about going to that side of the ruck. Only shaded by Pocock in terms of ball-carrying.
7) Rynhardt Elstadt – a triumphant return to top level rugby for the youngster as he added iron to an already strong Stormers pack. The impact at the tackle noticeably dropped off when he was subbed. Was jointly responsible for the softening up of the Bulls forwards that led to their frustration and the penalty count in the first half.
8) Duane Vermeulen – No flash, no breaks, no balls flipped out the back of the hand. Just solid graft. Why go around when you can go through? The Stormers forwards are going to be VERY difficult to find an answer for legally. It took the Reds cheap shots to do it last year, but this year is a very different kettle of fish. The Reds and the Crusaders have looked vulnerable up front this year and this is the key to what could be a clean-sheet tour.
9) Francois Hougaard – Hougaard’s kicking is not on song yet, but his touch with the toe led to the try that brought the Bulls back into the game. He was also following up the kick and was there barring some Bekker interference. Coming back to his best.
10) Peter Grant – Goosen was good (and bad), Lambie was very good, but have to give it to Bash this week for slotting all the pressure kicks.
11) Bjorn Basson – his pace is electrifying and no-one does the kick-chase better than him. Overshadowed the Stormers midgets and scored a try purely off of backing up like a winger always should. his defense isn’t great, but he’s working on it.
12) Jean de Villiers – unfairly maligned this week as only working on defense, but what he does is so subtle and he always breaks the tackle and makes ground, which is the big difference between him and Olivier.
13) Juan de Jongh – finally starting to look like the dangerous attacker of old. Fleckie definitely worked on some plays during the week to bring him in as a strike runner. His style reminds me of Ashley-Cooper who also always works hard through the traffic to maximize ground gained. Needs to work on his fend, but is drawing two defenders to stop him.
14) Odwa Ndungane – Oddie!!!! Sure the top-speed in line isn’t there, but these twins are much maligned, especially when in my humble opinion they are the most like Aussie wings, with excellent technique in offense and defense. you’ll never catch an Ndungane with the ball tucked under the arm closest to the defender.
15) Joe Pietersen – is there room for an average height fullback? Pietersen seems to roll back the years to when backs were not man-mountains. His kicking out of hand is brilliant and won the battle with Sideshow Bob this weekend.