When is a strength not a strength? How does one become a weakness? In the preparation for rugby games, the answer to those questions is an essential part of the plan.
The Brumbies made two changes to the side that beat the Lions at home last week. Jahrome Brown replaced Lachlan McCaffrey at flanker and Irae Simone was replaced on the bench by New Zealand-born Wharenui Hawera.
The home side also made multiple changes to the line-up that thumped the Rebels in Melbourne last round. Dan Kriel and Joshua Stander replaced Damian de Allende and Jean-Luc du Plessis respectively in the starting line-up.
Johan du Toit, Neethling Fouche and Siya Kolisi came in for Jaco Coetzee, Frans Malherbe and Juarno Augustus on the bench as well as JJ Engelbrecht.
The match sparked into action early and it was the ACT side who drew first blood. Early phase-play deep in the Stormers’ half gave the Brumbies the ideal opportunity to attack, and it came through the forwards as neat ball skills by the 2.08m Rory Arnold put Pete Samu away in the left corner.
Samu had a lot of work to do but managed to ground the ball before going into touch. Christian Lealiifano did not successfully kick the conversion.
An obstruction penalty one minute later meant Stormers’ flyhalf Joshua Stander cut the deficit to two with a penalty kick.
The Stormers looked to exit their 22 from the kick-off but Rory Arnold was on the ball. He got his big frame in front of the ball as scrum-half Herschel Jantjies was preparing to box kick and the ball clattered into Arnold’s arms.
The ball ricocheted off towards the goal-line and Arnold completed the try by neatly swiveling to evade Damian Willemse and score the Brumbies second try. Lealiifano, this time, added the extras.
The Stormers went back to work trying to overhaul the nine-point lead. It was a period of consistently gruelling play which made the Brumbies defend for long periods of time.
They conceded five penalties between the 15th minute and the 40th minute but when Toni Pulu chased down Jantjies inches from the try line, Jantjies was deemed to have knocked the ball on and half-time was called. But, there was more.
As the teams were heading down the tunnel for half-time, replays showed that Pulu had, in fact, tackled Jantjies high. Players were called back onto the field where referee Nick Briant consulted with the television match official.
It was deemed that a try would’ve been scored had the tackle been legitimate and there were no other defenders capable of stopping the young scrum-half.
Pulu received a yellow card and a penalty try was awarded to the Stormers. At half-time, the Brumbies led 12-10.
In the second half, the Stormers began by piggy-backing their way upfield due to a penalty conceded by the Brumbies.
Six minutes into the half, Stormers tighthead prop Wilco Louw crashed over from close range to give the home side the lead.
Stander added the extras and now it was the Brumbies down by five.
But the Brumbies were on a mission. In the 52nd minute Ruhan Nel was away on the left-hand touchline before the 19 cap Wallaby, Henry Speight, put a big shot on to force him over the touchline.
The television match official was called in to adjudicate and it was decided that Speight had just forced Nel over the sideline before he grounded the ball.
The Brumbies then found some attack of their own and just ten minutes after the Stormers try, Tom Banks went in for a five-pointer.
With the Stormers camped on their own line, Powell shifted left to Lealiifano who threw a double-cut out pass to an unmarked Tom Banks who strolled in.
Lealiifano added his second conversion for the night and the Brumbies were once again up by two.
The Brumbies had twenty minutes to survive against the South African heavyweights but their dogged defence proved the difference in the end.
The Stormers persisted endlessly but couldn’t break the defensive wall of the Brumbies. The Brumbies defeated the Stormers 19-17 in Cape Town.
The Brumbies now travel to Buenos Aires where the Jaguares await. It is always a tough game for travelling sides in Argentina but the Brumbies will be confident against the high-flying Jaguares who put 51 points on the Sharks last week.
The Stormers still sit at the bottom of the South African conference and will face the Bulls in Cape Town next week.