Cape Town – Despite securing a bonus point in the first half already, Stormers coach John Dobson said his team felt “a bit bad” about the second-half performance in Saturday’s 34-26 United Rugby Championship victory over the Dragons in Gqeberha.
The Capetonians dazzled the boisterous 14 000-strong crowd at their Nelson Mandela Stadium adopted home with some scintillating attacking rugby to run in four tries before halftime.
The defending champions started out with two maul touchdowns via flank Junior Pokomela and hooker Joseph Dweba, and then displayed their full array of skills with some terrific offloads, running lines and decision-making in the build-ups to Ruhan Nel and Manie Libbok’s five-pointers.
But the Dragons from Newport never gave up, and were rewarded for their efforts through four tries of their own to claim their own bonus point as well.
“I was pretty happy up until about 65 minutes. In the last two games, we’ve had these leads, and people think we dip off. But I didn’t think we did up until we let that try in, when Ruhan shot (up) and left Hacjivah (Dayimani) alone, and they had a try under the poles,” Dobson said.
“I tell why I thought it was okay (up to that point)… Our defence was good, and you are not going to win every game in the URC by 50 points.
“But then I thought our body language is down, we made some poor decisions at halfback in that last 20 minutes. We didn’t come close – other than right at the end – to scoring in the second half.
“So, very disappointed. Also, just for the occasion and to be here in the stadium… I wanted the crowd to be fizzing rather than the Stormers just hung on.
“It was disappointing from us, and I think we’ve got a lot to learn in why it fell apart like it did in the last two weeks… We feel a bit bad about the second half.”
But after six wins, a draw and a loss in the URC – which places them in third spot on the log with 34 points behind the Bulls (also 34) and Leinster (43) – the Stormers move onto bigger things with their Champions Cup debut against Clermont Auvergne in France on Saturday (5.15pm SA time kickoff).
Dobson said that Springboks Libbok (groin) and Marvin Orie (rib) took slight knocks, but should be fine to travel to France, while other Test players such as Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Damian Willemse are likely to return as well.
“It’s going to be another world for us. We leave on Monday, and a couple of guys will become available again that we didn’t choose – Steven, we will have a chat to Frans, Damian… But we’ve done a really good thing in creating a big squad, and using as many players as we could over this period,” the coach said.
“I think now’s the time to get a bit of cohesion and play what we think is our best team week-in, week-out.”
Stormers 34 – Tries: Junior Pokomela, Joseph Dweba, Ruhan Nel, Manie Libbok. Conversions: Libbok (3), Clayton Blommetjies (1). Penalties: Libbok (2).
Dragons 26 – Tries: Jordan Williams, Aki Seiuli, JJ Hanrahan, Josh Reynolds. Conversions: Hanrahan (2), Will Reed (1).