Allister Coetzee was very happy with his team's 39-26 win over the Hurricanes in their first-round Super match at Newlands on Saturday but described the performance as "definitely not the complete package".
The scrummaging, line-outs and driving mauls had been excellent and the breakdown play very good too, but decision-making - especially in terms of getting out of their own half - would need to improve and it would be important n future matches to concede fewer turnovers.
"We played very well in the first half. We allowed them back [into the game] just before half-time and they gained in confidence, but the victory is there - the four points - and we're off to a winning start," he said.
Coetzee had been happy with the character and leadership of his team. The Hurricanes had fought back from a 14-point deficit to tie the score at 23-23, but the coach emphasised: "A key thing for me was the way we rallied to get on top of them again."
He conceded that his team's performance was far from perfect, but the first-round Super matches had shown that all the teams had struggled with accuracy and cohesion, and there had been a lot of unforced errors. Super rugby provided far more pressure than pre-season games and "you get sharper the more you play".
The loss of captain Schalk Burger had been a setback but the coach gave credit to the leadership of the team, saying: "In the past we lost captains and things went pear-shaped. We've got a lot of youngsters in the team and I was really pleased with the way the senior players took control, bearing in mind that we needed Andries Bekker, Duane Vermeulen and Dewaldt Duvenage to play only 60 minutes.
"It showed the side is maturing. I'm pleased with the win."
Coetzee was happy with the performances of the Stormers' four inexperienced young forwards Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe.
The pack had been outstanding as a group, which the coach believed to be especially pleasing in the light of the criticism that had been aimed at them, and particularly at their supposedly suspect scrummaging - "by scrummaging gurus somewhere else". In his opinion, the set-piece and breakdown play had been impressive.
"But there are a lot of things we need to work on still. It's definitely not the complete package and it's good to have a few 'work-ons'.
"It's just a few mistakes which kept them in the game [such as] when we aren't accurate in the way we exit our defensive area, our half. I think we could have been more clinical there."
New Zealand teams fed off turnovers, the coach explained, and the Hurricanes had scored tries off turnovers. The Stormers had a few times played one or two rucks too many, and instead of getting out of their half efficiently, had allowed the Hurricanes turnovers. In future, the team would need to get out of their half more efficiently and to stop conceding turnovers.
It had been a nervous start to the competition and players needed to take ownership of decision-making rather than being wary of making wrong decisions.
The try conceded just before half-time had been unfortunate. "It was a lapse in concentration. We numbered up, the wall was there, but they got the offload away - the guy just got his hands through."
On the performance of flyhalf Gary van Aswegen, Coetzee commented: "Gary is still a young boy. He's not an experienced player. He's got to grow in the position. He made a couple of mistakes, but all the players made a couple of mistakes. He can just build on this performance."
Asked for his view on Marius Jonker's refereeing performance, Coetzee said: "What pleased me was that every time they transgressed, he penalised [them]. It was clear that our driving maul is a strength and we tried to buy penalties and get on top of them physically and he penalised them and gave them yellow cards when they transgressed. I thought he had a good game."
Jean de Villiers, who took over the captaincy when Burger was carried off the field after 14 minutes, lamented his own loose pass which had led to a Hurricanes' interception and try.
"Those are the sort of things that happen in a game that changes the whole flow of the game," said De Villiers. "One bad pass, a seven-point swing, and suddenly they're back in the game. It gives them momentum and confidence and that was the case today [Saturday].
"But even though that happened I thought we did very well and showed character to actually take the game away from them again. I think the forwards did really well."
The veteran Springbok centre added: "The first game is never easy. I think we saw all the other teams struggled as well. It's a tough competition; you're trying to settle in, and to beat a team like the Hurricanes by 13 points, I think we'll take that any day."
Asked to comment on the success of his centre combination with Bryan Habana, De Villiers said: "It's difficult to say because I don't think we had that many opportunities. So a solid performance, not great, not terrible. It's something to build on."
Coetzee believed Habana had been solid in defence and had "done nothing wrong" but the centres had not been given sufficient opportunities for comprehensive assessment.
He had been "very pleased" with Gerhard van den Heever's debut performance. The former Bulls wing was slotting in really well.
In terms of selection for the Stormers game against the Sharks at Newlands on Saturday, Coetzee said that Peter Grant would probably be back in time to train with the team on Wednesday but he would need to be medically assessed, his fitness levels would be determined, and he would need to settle back into the Stormers' set-up. "We'll take it from there," said the coach.
He expected centre Juan de Jongh and lock Rynhardt Elstadt to be available for selection this week.
By Len Kaplan at Newlands
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