CAPE TOWN – Stormers coach John Dobson says that while there were a few disappointing aspects in their 34-21 victory over the Lions, he was pleased with how his team went at altitude in their first game.
The game could never have been expected to be a masterful showcase of top rugby given the rugby drought South Africa has experienced over the last six months. Rustiness was to be expected, and while there were glimpses of that in the Stormers-Lions game, there was way more good than bad.
The Stormers were in complete control in the opening half, absolutely dominating the Lions at the scrum, while they also looked solid on defence and did well to put the Lions under pressure.
The way they kept things going despite visible fatigue (hello Siya Kolisi after his try in the corner) was also impressive, and their halftime lead (20-7) was testament to their upper hand in the first 40.
But the Lions did well to fight back in the second half.
“It wasn’t meant to be about winning or losing, But if you’re playing a rival, you want to do well,” Dobson said after the game. “I thought the Lions were really good, they put us under a lot of pressure in the second half.”
While they had extended squads at their disposal for the game, Dobson didn’t make too many changes and explained his reasoning behind it.
“We didn’t bring out 30 players because we wanted some guys to go 80 minutes and they (Lions) really caught us towards the end there. We were lucky to hold on there, but I think we showed a reasonable amount of character,” he said.
“I think we have a bye in the first week (before the domestic competition kicks off next weekend), so we’re probably three weeks from playing, so we’re perhaps not where we should be.
“There are some things we haven’t worked on and then there are some things we did work on that were a bit disappointing, like our breakdown. There were also some aspects of our kicking that we didn’t quite get right.
“But to come up to altitude for the first game after a wet Cape winter and get that result … I’m pleased with the team.”
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen also shared his thoughts on his team’s performance.
“Clearly the set-piece still needs work, they put us under pressure there,” Van Rooyen said.
“But on attack we managed to keep the ball and build pressure and phases. On defence we managed to put pressure on them, but then with one or two soft moments we let that pressure slip.”
The Lions made mass changes to their team in the second half – something Van Rooyen said they had decided to do prior to the game.
The injection of fresh legs made an immediate difference to the Lions’ performance, there was a visible shift in momentum.
They came back from a 27-7 deficit, enjoyed more possession, and showed much more continuity and intent after the break.
“We could feel that we were a bit rusty. We gave the first team 50 minutes and the second team 30 minutes, we decided that in the week. The second team picked up the energy nicely and they picked up the pace, they definitely made a difference,” Van Rooyen said.
“There’s definitely things we have to work on, but there’s also a lot of excitement.”