rugby365.com columnist Grant Ball says along with the front five not pitching, Duane Vermeulen's absence hurt the Stormers against the Crusaders.
But crucially in a play-off of this magnitude, it was the nature of Vermeulen's game that was sorely missed. His aggressive defence and abrasive work at the breakdown were key elements missing from the Stormers, which negated their defensive ability.
Koster was never going to possess Vermeulen-like qualities against the Saders, while the call-up of Brits meant that the Stormers had another flashy loosie, but not one who was going to do the basics and the dirty work come ruck-time (blooding a youngster like Nizaam Carr would've shown more faith in the province's youth systems, but instead they went for the overseas option).
It may seem unfair to pinpoint Koster in the wake of the loss where most of the Stormers were well below par, but Koster's mistakes highlight Vermeulen's value. For the Saders' first try, the Stormers' had done well to turn over possession, but when in space Koster – clearly low on confidence – panicked when Sonny Bill Williams came into his eyeline on cover defence.
The pass went straight to Sean Maitland. Some complain about Vermeulen's 'lack of pace', but you can be sure he would have got over the advantage line in that situation, while his ability to straighten the line and offload is under-rated.
For Robbie Fruean's try, Koster was too slow off the line and when he did eventually make the tackle, Williams had already got over the advantage line, he'd drawn in two defenders and he could still make the pass to Fruean. This again highlighted Vermeulen's value on defence (watch these clips of Vermeulen the last time they played the Crusaders, and notice the difference with Vermeulen knocking players back).
Granted, it wasn't easy for Koster with his scrum mangled like it was. However, Vermeulen also had a wobbly scrum in May, and his power off the back made the set-piece failings less noticeable. That Vermeulen is also a classy line-out option at the tail further emphasises how much he was missed.
Some say Vermeulen wouldn't have made a difference with the tight five's performance, but his robustness equates to having another tight five member, while his mobility means he still does the work of a loosie. It's a luxury the Stormers have had throughout the last couple of years, and when they didn't possess it in a crucial semi against the best side in the competition, they were lost without him.
The major problem, and why some have brought back the 'light five' label, is that the Stormers' heavies don't do the basics at the breakdown. Too often Brok Harris and Andries Bekker are out wide when a tighter game is required. They could get away with it with Vermeulen on the pitch, but not so without him.
Vermeulen has been a great buy from the Cheetahs. On a day when those wearing jersey numbers 1-5 were going to be vital, unfortunately the quality of the purchases of CJ van der Linde and Adriaan Fondse were exposed. Van der Linde hasn't delivered and Fondse's value has depreciated alarmingly. Initially he fulfilled a role, but for a player who has reportedly one of the highest salaries in the squad, that money has also proved a waste.
Grant Ball also writes for RugbyXV
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.