The Stormers were handed a heavy 40-3 thrashing at the hands of the Bulls in Round 1 of Super Rugby 2019. Their errors were visible across the park, and the Bulls were happy to inflict as much damage as possible on their derby rivals. We have already conducted some Super Rugby analysis on some of the brilliant Bulls tries, but now it’s time to look at the team on the receiving end.

Can the Stormers bounce back? Let’s find out.

Super Rugby Analysis | the Stormers worst problems

We will get to the deeper structural issues soon, but let’s start with this simple line-out.

The Stormers throw a line-out over the top
The Stormers throw a line-out over the top

The ball goes right over the top, and the Bulls walk right through the line to eat up metres. It doesn’t look pretty. But this is a very simple error that can easily be corrected if it’s worked on at training.

This next play showcases a great piece of skill from Willemse. He puts up a bomb right on the 5-metre line and gathers his own kick.

Willemse almost works magic
Willemse almost works magic

The pass goes to ground, unfortunately, and the chance is squandered. This moment would foreshadow the disconnect between players that the Stormers would suffer from throughout the match.

Super Rugby Analysis | a lack of high standards

This disconnect was made worse by the fact that their players looked sluggish and were struggling to get into position just 20 minutes into the game. Watch this passage of play and judge the effort for yourself.

The Bulls set up a pod
The Bulls set up a pod

The Bulls set up a pod of 3 forwards in the above clip, which is consistent with the 1-3-3-1 structure used by many South African sides. Remember this pod as we fast forward a few phases.

In the below clip the Stormers look to go wide, but the original pod from above is still sluggishly getting back into position.

The Stormers are far too slow to get back into alignment
The Stormers are far too slow to get back into alignment

You may notice the Bulls defence is paying no attention to the second pod whatsoever. They are not a threat. This weakens the chances of the first pod to make metres.

We discussed how non-committed runners hampered Italy’s chances in the article below. Dummy runners and movement off the ball has become crucial in modern rugby.

Scotland v Italy Tactics | Why Italy Can’t Keep Up In The 6 Nations

So the Stormers suffered from zero chemistry between players and a chronic lack of commitment. This could be due to fitness or pre-season problems. But before we make our judgement on whether the Stormers can recover, we need to look at the positives to provide a balanced view.

Super Rugby Analysis | the Stormers silver lining

The Stormers are extremely lucky to have Springboks captain Kolisi steadying the ship, and right out of the gate in this game he made his presence known. Check out this turnover with barely 30 seconds on the clock.

Kolisi makes an impact immediately
Kolisi makes an impact immediately

Kolisi makes a great chop tackle and Schickerling comes over the top to wrap up the ball. This is very reminiscent of what England have been doing recently, and we would expect this from top players like Kolisi.

Another example of individual brilliance comes in the form of this kick from de Allende.

de Allende gets the Stormers out of trouble
de Allende gets the Stormers out of trouble

This kick comes after a poor passage of play from the Stormers. The Bulls are hammering them in defence, and their ruck ball is painfully slow. The Kiwi teams also used bouncing kicks like this into the backfield in Round 1, and this one turns a poor passage of play into a net gain.

These solid individual performances can’t pull the rest of the team across the line in this game, but we do need to mention this next move that almost worked.

The Stormers set up a killer strike move
The Stormers set up a killer strike move

The double-round creates a gap. Leyds is going straight through the gap in the direction of the yellow arrow. However, the disconnect strikes again.

The last pass doesn't leave the hands of Willemse
The last pass doesn’t leave the hands of Willemse

While there seems to be some sort of trust issues here, the strike-move was sound. And this leads us to the final verdict on whether the Stormers can recover.

Super Rugby Analysis | the final verdict

The Stormers have the players and the structures in place to succeed, but the little things like line-out throws and passes not going to hand are letting them down. They will need to do plenty of team play at training to get into a competitive state before Round 2. While they may not be able to beat the Lions, watch out for big improvements over the next few rounds. They should certainly be able to recover.

Do you think the Stormers can improve enough to be competitive in the South African conference? Let us know below.


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