Brumbies head coach Stephen Larkham admitted that the Stormers' kicking game caught him by surprise in their Super Rugby clash in Cape Town at weekend.
The Stormers' 31-11 victory was set up by well-executed tactical kicking, especially from fly-half Kurt Coleman, and Larkham believes this played a huge part in his side's first defeat of the season.
“Yeah … I think the first couple of rounds they probably ran more than they have,” he said when asked if the Stormers approach came as a surprise.
“We were ready for a running game … they probably showed glimpses of that throughout the night but their kicking game was good tonight.
“We’d spoken about it … we had a plan, particularly as a backline to be ready for the kicks and I thought we handled it quite well.”
Although Larkham Was full of praise for the Stormers' tactics, he feels the result could have been different if his team's reserve hooker Josh Mann-Rea wasn't sent off with 15 minutes left in the match.
“They were just too good … I thought it was one of those games where I thought it was pretty tight,” added Larkham.
“Both teams were sort of sticking in there and it got away from us I think … the red card really hurt us in terms of our set piece and having one less number around the pack to defend with.
“Up until that point it was anyone’s game.”
The Stormers' kicking meant that they had territorial advantage for large periods, while it also helped to neutralise the threat posed at the breakdowns by Brumbies flanker David Pocock.
Larkham felt it was difficult to pin-point exactly how his opponents' kicking was able to nullify Pocock's influence on the game.
“We’ll certainly give credit to the Stormers for their kicking game and their tactics … if that’s sort of what you’re asking for,” said Larkham.
“I think it was good … they kicked quite well. They probably didn’t execute some of the kicks as well as they would have liked but it worked for them tonight.
“But, like I said, I thought the balance was in the game right up until the red card.”