Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie believes that winning the collisions was pivotal in earning the Stormers their 36-34 win at Newlands on Saturday.
Speaking shortly after the final whistle, Rennie said the Chiefs had lost the collisions and their inability to win sufficient ball had been costly.
Asked whether earning two bonus points – for losing by fewer than seven points and by scoring four tries – provided some compensation for the defeat, Rennie commented: “It’s better than nothing I guess, but we’re pretty disappointed.
"To get that close and the fact that we really battled in the collision area, with and without the ball, and struggled at line-out time…we played a lot of the game without the ball.
“If we’d been tidier in those areas we might have got a better result.”
The coach added: “Some of the ball we got we used pretty well, but it took us a while to get going. But like I say, we lost the collision area with and without the ball and that was key in the end.
“It could be worse of course. The thing that’s frustrating at the moment is that we’re better than what we put on the park. To the Stormers credit they played well. They were physical in that contact area carrying the ball and they defended well.
“There were some things we thought we could put on the park to put them under pressure and we got it right probably in the last 20 or 30. But it wasn’t good enough earlier on and we got ourselves behind on the scoreboard.”
The two first-half tries from grubber kicks had come from strategy planned to overcome the excellent Stormers defence.
“They’ve got a lot of line speed,” explained Rennie, “they push up and commit with their blind wing in the line and fullback out wide so there’s a lot of space behind that.
“To do that with 14 guys on the field was pretty well done; I’m pretty happy with that.”
Commenting on the Chiefs' two yellow cards, Rennie said: “I understand why he [referee Jaco Peyper] gave them. Our discipline wasn’t good enough, so we gave away a couple of soft penalties.
“Tawera [Kerr-Barlow] felt he had a right to get in and claim the ball. Maybe he didn’t demonstrate that he had separation before he went on the ball. The ref saw that as cynical and binned him and I can understand that.
“And Nick Croswell’s was a bit of a brain explosion. He was grabbing hold of someone. It had no material impact on the game but it’s not part of the rules so he got binned for it.”
The Chiefs could have won the game with a penalty goal in the last minute as they attacked strongly, but Rennie was not convinced his team would have deserved the victory.
“We might have been given a penalty and might have stolen the game but whether we deserved to win is probably another question.”
The bottom line for the coach was that the Chiefs campaign remained on track.
“In the end we’ve got 12 points in three weeks; it’s the equivalent of three wins ultimately and if we’d said at the start of the season we’d have 12 points after three games we’d have been pretty happy with that.
“It doesn’t feel very good at the moment but perhaps on reflection tomorrow and beyond that it may be better, but it won’t count for much if next Friday we don’t do the job against the Kings. We’ve got to bounce back quickly.”
Chiefs captain Craig Clarke believed his team had been ‘out-physicalled’ by the Stormers.
“It was a typical South African approach they took to the game,” said the skipper, “a lot of line-out drives that we knew they’d do and the double runners they like to do were effective.”
“We were pretty poor in that area in combatting that, so they ‘out-physicalled’ us in those areas.”
The veteran of 77 Super Rugby games for the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Chiefs was disappointed that his team had not succeeded in playing their ball-in-hand attacking brand of rugby.
“Chief’s footy is about playing, though we didn’t play much tonight we were still able to put a couple of chips through and at times do what we said we’d do. We love scoring tries; it’s part of our game, playing with the ball.”
By Len Kaplan
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