DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said the way his pack had answered barbs about their physicality was what pleased him the most about their impressive 29-17 upset win over the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.
The Stormers’ tight five was particularly youthful with an average age of 22 years and 10 months – while their replacements averaged 21-and-a-half years – but they managed to dominate a powerhouse Bulls pack laden with Springboks, especially in the scrums, while they never gave an inch in the collisions as the big men ran at them.
“There were big question marks about our physicality, but I’m really proud of the way the players put their bodies on the line, they got stuck into the Bulls and I’m really proud of the way we defended.
“It all starts in the scrums, they were a massive focus for us, and there’s been a big improvement. I’m really pleased for our young props, Vincent Koch [on loan from the Pumas] has slotted in very well and so have Bongi Mbonambi and Wilco Louw,” Coetzee said after the game.
Despite trailing 17-5 at halftime, the Bulls managed to burrow their way back into the game and had closed the gap to 17-20 on the hour mark, but Coetzee said he was delighted with the way his team had managed to close out their first SuperRugby win at Loftus Versfeld since 2012.
“I haven’t seen a Stormers team be so clinical in the last 15 minutes, we had to turn up and really perform, especially the youngsters and the leadership. Our indiscipline early in the second half allowed the Bulls back into the game and we have to make sure we brush up on that,” Coetzee said.
Despite all the talk about a new style of play for the Bulls, it was back to the bad old days for Frans Ludeke’s team as they made numerous basic errors when in possession and struggled to find a way through or around the ferocious Stormers defence.
Ludeke admitted the performance “was not good enough” and blamed “silly penalties” for the Bulls being under pressure, a batch of them conceded at the scrum.
Captain Victor Matfield accused his team of being “out-worked” by the Stormers in the final quarter.
“Everything went so well in the pre-season, but I hope the guys see that only one thing counts, and that’s the 80 minutes on the park. You have to win the big moments,” Matfield barked.
Both Ludeke and Coetzee praised Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen for two of those big moments, when the eighthman effected critical turnovers under his own poles and replacement hooker Mbonambi also made a crucial steal against his former team in the final quarter.
Vermeulen also had praise for his tight five and the composure of his side.
“The tight five definitely put us on the front foot, but the Bulls came back and if you’re not composed and playing in the right areas, then you’re going to be back on your goal-line and conceding points. It was nice to see us execute that well,” Vermeulen said.