Super Rugby 2018
Highlanders vs Stormers
Final Score: Highlanders 33 – Stormers 15
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
Television match official: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
When I wrote my preview to this game I was more than a little concerned that the Stormers might implode. They are a team ravaged by injuries, and at the end of a difficult three week tour to Australasia. They had blown the chance to win against the Waratahs, and then made a decent fist of it against the Crusaders, after a twenty minute horror show straight from the kick-off.
I thought that the Highlanders might just be a bridge too far for the Stormers in their current state.
The final score suggests that this was a bridge to many, as does the 5 – 2 try count.
But in reality, once again, the Stormers made a fist of it. This was a fast-paced and entertaining encounter, in which both sides ran the ball from all areas of the field. Both sides were prepared to take chances, and both sides threw everything they had at each other.
Both sides showed intent right from the kick off, taking the ball through several phases on attack. After twenty minutes both sides had scored tries, the Highlanders 1 and the Stormers 2.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable game, even for a losing Stormers supporter!
The Highlanders eventually outscored the Stormers five tries to three, three in the first half, one in the 47th minute, but then it took them all of 30 minutes to score their fifth, at a time when the Stormers had finally run out of gas.
This was not the walkover the score-line might suggest.
A couple of players deserve mention.
Waisake Naholo is a real handful on the wing. When he is of a mind to play rugby, he is very difficult to stop. He also makes a habit of popping up all over the field, looking for work.
The Highlanders are really going to miss the calm game management of Liam Sopoaga when he leaves at the end of the year. He is one of those flyhalves that just seems to have a little more time on the ball than the rest.
Raymond Rhule will not look back on this game with any sense of pride. He played the full 80 minutes, made 5 tackle attempts and missed 3 tackles, made 3 handling errors, conceded 4 turnovers, passed the ball 8 times, of which just two went to hand, made no line breaks, carried the ball 12 times, but for just 83 meters, some 7 meters per carry for a winger is not great.
All of the above are not just single poor game in a season of good ones! Far from it!
Rhule has missed 12 tackles this season, ranking him second worst in the entire Super Rugby competition. He has conceded 8 turnovers in total, ranking him 3rd worst in the entire competition. He has passed the ball 24 times in 2018, and just 11 of those passes went to hand, the rest went astray!
He has scored just 1 try in 42 carries of the ball.
I am not sure why the Stormers offered him a contract, and I am totally bewildered by the fact that Allister Coetzee gave him a bunch of Springbok caps. It is not just the statistics that count against him, it is the reality of watching him play too! Just watch how easily opposing wingers like Naholo dispose of his attentions. Watch how ineffectual his kick-chasing has become.
The best I can say is to quote Max Boise just slightly out of context: “Raymond Rhule ran on very well, and he wore the nicest jersey.”
The Stormers can do better than to keep selecting Raymond Rhule out on the wing.
Damian Willemse is the real deal. He is a kid, learning the game, but he has more natural talent than is fair. The Stormers and South Africa must look after him very well. I worry that he is being over-used at the moment.
Damian de Allende is laying down a marker that says “I’m back!” with some clever play at 12, good carrying, good defence, and a couple of good offloads too. He needs a centre partner that will run off him.
I enjoyed the game. The Highlanders will worry a lot of people as the season continues, and the Stormers are by no means a lost cause. When they get some of their walking wounded and heavy artillery back they will be a real handful too.
Tries: Squire, A Smith 2, Naholo, Whitelock
Cons: Sopoaga 4
Tries: Van Zyl, Willemse
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Nabura, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Shannon Frizell, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Josh Renton, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Matt Faddes
Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Dean Muir, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 George Whitehead, 23 JJ Engelbrecht