The DHL Stormers could be said to have given the Brumbies a bit of their own medicine in their emphatic 35-22 win at Newlands which brought the visiting team’s winning run to a grinding halt.
It’s always amazing what a difference it can make when you play against a team that actually pitches.
The Sharks didn’t do that last week against the Brumbies. They allowed the Australian outfit far too much leeway by failing to front up defensively, and as a consequence of that, maybe the Brumbies started to believe their own press.
Certainly their coach Jake White was in a supremely confident mood when he hosted a press conference in Cape Town on Thursday.
Perhaps then the warning lights should have been flickering, for the way White was talking about his team it sounded as if he thought they had brushed off a Sharks team at their most physical and on top of their game.
They weren’t that, and in the end Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen, speaking at the same press conference, was the man who got it spot on – the Stormers would be significantly more physical than the Sharks were.
The upshot was a rousing win for the Stormers, which included a four-try bonus point.
As that was the first time since the last league match of the 2011 campaign against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein that the Stormers have picked up a full house, that in itself was good reason for the 35 000 at Newlands on a calm late summer evening to celebrate.
In short, the element of surprise the Brumbies may have had over the Sharks was lost during the build-up week.
The Stormers had more than enough time to study the video of where the Sharks got it wrong, and it was there for all to see as slipped tackles and failure to close up space is hard to miss.
So they were ready for the Brumbies’ physicality, and ensured that for the first time this season, the Canberra team played against a team that was more physical than they were.
And when that happens, as the Brumbies discovered, it becomes a very different game.
Pack leader Andries Bekker turned in another inspired performance for the Stormers, and was a deserved recipient of the man-of-the-match award.
He’s off to Japan at the end of the season, and as someone commented, perhaps the entire Stormers tight five should make a similar announcement, for they weren’t far behind Bekker with the ferocity of their play.
Bekker capped his performance with two tries, but it was his defence and the sheer ferocity with which he threw himself around the place that played such a big part in denting the Brumbies.
The Brumbies are too well coached by Jake White to be one-trick ponies, so the visitors were still able to make it a close game until Gerhard van den Heever intercepted and ran 50 metres for the fourth Stormers try with five and a bit minutes remaining.
Veteran George Smith was immense at the battle of the breakdown for the Brumbies, and frequently it was the visiting No 7 who held up the Stormers’ momentum with crucial turnovers.
The Brumbies were also hugely disadvantaged by the withdrawal during the week of fullback Jesse Mogg.
Robbie Coleman is not in the same league as a fullback, and that enabled the Stormers to beat the Brumbies at the kicking game – and some would say consequently at their own game.
But full marks to the Stormers for the way they controlled the game for most of the way.
It was a dicey first eight minutes, with the Brumbies muscling their way up and drawing the Stormers' defenders in.
There was a bit of scrambling from the home side in those early stages. That changed though after Joe Pietersen kicked a 45-metre penalty to put the first points of the match on the board.
The Stormers appeared to be galvanised by the score, and after that they tore into their task with gusto, winning the collisions as they did against the Chiefs and committing the Brumbies to defence.
Gio Aplon was injured after a horrible collision with Brumbies No 8 Fotu Auelua later in the game and was stretchered from the field, but it didn’t happen before he made a mark on the contest.
It came in the 11th minute, with the Stormers making ground up the left touchline through skipper Jean de Villiers before Elton Jantjies drew his man superbly and played inside for Aplon to weave his way through for a try that was converted by Pietersen to make it 10-0.
This was the reverse of the previous week for the Brumbies, and it wasn’t much of a surprise when a pod broke off a Stormers drive from a lineout and Bekker scored near the corner flag in the 22nd minute.
That made it 17-3, and the Brumbies were always chasing the game after that.
A second Bekker try, again with the impressive attacking skills of Jantjies playing a role, ensured the Stormers went into the break with a 12-point buffer after the Brumbies had briefly threatened a fightback through their 100 kg winger Henry Speight, who ran a great angle for the try.
It was to prove their only five pointer on the night, and although the Brumbies looked like they were bossing the early stages of the second half, and they fought back with some penalties through Christian Lealiifano to make it a three-point game heading into the last 10 minutes, a 22-10 halftime deficit was always going to be a big obstacle for them to overcome.
As it turned out, once the Brumbies did come into range of the Stormers it was the cue for the Stormers to up a gear and draw on their big-match temperament, a lineout win against the throw near the Brumbies' 22 forcing a penalty that Pietersen kicked to restore the six-point buffer.
Then came Van den Heever’s try to clinch the bonus point and complete as perfect a night as there has been for a while for the magnificent Stormers, who are now strongly back in the race for South African conference honours.
DHL Stormers – Tries: Gio Aplon, Andries Bekker (2), Gerhard van der Heever. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (3). Penalties: Pietersen (3).
Brumbies – Try: Henry Speight. Conversion: Christian Lealiifano. Penalties: Lealiifano (4).