David Moseley

The Stormers have peaked in Super Rugby

2013-04-09 09:10

David Moseley

The Stormers have hit their ceiling with a final and a few semifinals and SA Conference wins, and that’s all we’ll see from the Western Cape side until some new ideas land at their Newlands HQ.

Their defeat at the hands of the never-been-better Cheetahs this Saturday was hardly the worst result ever suffered by Jean de Villiers and his merry, meandering backline men. It was a spectacular local rugby derby, where either team could have won.

In truth, the level of rugby was outstanding at times, providing a more rounded rugby experience than you would get while watching an all New Zealand derby or another dire Australian run-about.

Andries Bekker was superb again. De Kock Steenkamp snaffled Cheetahs lineout ball with ease. Duane Vermeulen was immense. Jean de Villiers was his usual solid self, while Nic Groom was good (then bad) then good (then bad). Others shone sporadically too.

The Stormers have the talent. They’ve always had the talent. But they’re not doing anything with it. On paper, Allister Coetzee’s team should never lose to a side best described as plucky.

The Cheetah’s are riding the crest of an unprecedented wave at the moment, and in Robert Ebersohn, Willie le Roux and Raymond Rhule they have the form South African backline players.

Burton Francis has looked like a world beater in two games. But the Stormers should always beat the Cheetahs, especially if they have designs on winning the Super Rugby tournament.

The chance of that happening in 2013 is now gone. Despite Coetzee saying they’re “down but not out”, it’s obvious to see that the Stormers do not have “champions” written on the changing room walls.

They are dead and buried, and Coetzee and his coaching staff have been found out as inadequate when it comes to winning Super Rugby trophies.

Since Coetzee has taken charge of the Stormers they’ve made one final and two semi-finals (finishing top of the log last season by winning 14 matches and losing just two in the league stage of the tournament – all by playing some of the most lacklustre rugby ever seen at Newlands).

Last year they should have kicked on. Last year they should have secured the home final and nailed their opponents in that final. But they didn’t. Somehow they contrived to throw it all away against a sixth-placed Sharks team that had just travelled to Australia for what was effectively a quarterfinal against the Reds.

A cruel blow for the Stormers, but perhaps forgivable in Coetzee’s third year in charge. This would be the year to kick on then, to squash all comers and finally take the Cape side to the top.

But no, they’ve fumbled, fallen and failed so far in 2013. They were dire against the Bulls, slightly less so against the Sharks, somehow dazzling against the Chiefs and Brumbies, inept against the Crusaders (if you can’t utilise your number one weapon – the lineout – then there is no other word to describe it), and clueless against the Cheetahs.

At one stage the TV commentators spoke of the lovely running rugby being employed by the Stormers. They obviously had a 1999 highlights reel on, because the only running the Stormers do is sideways, straight out into touch.

Yes, the Cheetahs needed a last minute penalty to sink the visitors, but the Stormers were never in control of that match. It’s a penalty that should signal the end of Coetzee and his backroom staff.

This is a side packed with talent, talent that has been wasted in the last three years. We all know that there are no remarks in the results column, but keen rugby watchers will tell you that the Stormers have played some of the blandest rugby in getting to the top of the SA Super Rugby conference.

It would have looked good for Coetzee and Co had his bore tactics actually yielded results. But they haven’t. Simply, the Stormers are not good enough to win this competition. And for that, the coaches need to take the blame.

I'd love to be proven wrong. I don't see it happening.

- Follow @david_moseley on Twitter.

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