Stormers head coach John Dobson was frustrated with his team’s first-half performance against Clermont but was happy his substitutions made the difference in the second period.
The French side was brave in the first half and led 6-3 at half-time in Cape Town, while the Stormers, who had most of the possession and territory, struggled to string it all together.
“We were so flat and disjointed in the first half, and we must give credit to Clermont,” Dobson said.
“I didn’t realise it at the time because as a coach, you always look at your own team. But the way that Clermont defended – making 112 tackles in the first and only missing three – we were faced with a brick wall the whole time.”
“The subs made a difference. It was a team spiralling in the first half.
“Captain Steven Kitshoff could see it, we could see it ourselves – you could see guys looking at each other, ‘Why didn’t you do this?’, and that sort of spiral.
“In the second half, we reset at half-time, Kitshoff spoke to them well and we just became more direct.
“When you’ve got Jean-Luc – he’s a Du Plessis, he added some spark to the game and with Herschel we just needed more speed.
“We would’ve probably brought in the subs before half-time – but that’s inhumane.”
Speaking after the game, Kitshoff knew his team had the upper hand; it was more a case of finishing their chances.
“At the half-time break, it was about reinforcing the team by saying once again that our plan is working. We are playing rugby in the right areas, and it’s all about just finishing those moments,” Kitshoff said.
“After half-time, that spark came out and things just started to stick. I also think making 112 tackles in a half of rugby does take a lot out of the legs. You see it often: a team that defend most of the game tend to tire the most. We just kept bashing and kept the pressure on, and the things started to stick.”
A player who sparked the second-half blitz was Springbok Evan Roos, who returned from injury to score in 90 seconds.
The number eight ran hard and made good metres, much to the delight of Dobson, who was happy to see “old Evan” back.
“It looked like the old Evan. At the start of this season, he was heavily marked when he played those games, and it felt very much like the old Evan. I’m very pleased, and that’s a massive asset for us going forward,” Dobson said.
“We live every week with must-win games and staying alive, and sometimes it’s better to just take a look (from above). If you had said a year-and-a-half ago, URC champions, Champions Cup play-offs at home, it’s a massive credit to this group.”