DHL Stormers were met with stubborn resistance for much of their Heineken Champions Cup Round 4 clash with ASM Clermont Auvergne in Cape Town on Saturday, and head coach John Dobson was keen to praise the TOP 14 side’s efforts.
Four tries in 16 second-half minutes eventually saw DHL Stormers claim a 30-16 victory and book a home Round of 16 against Harlequins.
However, Clermont frustrated the South African outfit for long spells and Dobson needed to rely on strong substitute performances from the likes of Evan Roos, Herschel Jantjies and Jean-Luc du Plessis as his team grinded out a win.
“I didn’t realise it at the time – as when you coach you always look at your own team – but the way that Clermont defended; I think there’s a stat where they made 112 tackles in the first half and they only missed three,” Dobson said. “We were faced with a brick-wall the whole time.
“Jean-Luc is a Du Plessis, so he’s mad, but he’ll bring some spark to the game.
“Herschel is nippy too, so all we really needed in that game was a bit of speed. It’s never nice substituting guys on 44 minutes, and we probably could’ve done so at half-time already, but that’s inhumane.
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“All the subs made a difference. Brokkie’s (Brok Harris) handling. It was a bit of a team spiral in the first half, but Kitsie (Steven Kitshoff) spoke at the break, and we just became more direct and delivered some outstanding play.”
Captain Kitshoff felt it was only a matter of time before DHL Stormers broke Clermont’s resistance, noting the physical demand of spending significant periods on the back foot.
“It pretty much boiled down to, we played all the rugby in their half, and we were actually bashing at them for 90 percent of the time,” he said.
“So, it was literally just a couple of handling errors, being late at the breakdown that gave them the exits.
“So, I felt as a team, we had great momentum – even though the scoreboard didn’t say it. So, 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.”