View from the South Terrace: Stormers

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If someone says to you “Cardiff are playing a South African side on a wet Saturday night on late October”, I expect the natural reaction of 99% of supporters would be to expect a loss.

However, last weekend at the Arms Park the Blue and Blacks showed off an ability to win a game in conditions not conducive to running rugby, and in a style that put kicking and game management at the forefront, backed up by physicality and commitment to fight up front.

Thinking back to games at Ospreys last season, and at Edinburgh and Connacht during the campaign before that, Cardiff have been guilty of not adapting to the weather conditions quickly enough, attempting to overplay with ball-in-hand and coming unstuck as errors mounted up, the set piece was overrun and points conceded before we had a chance to rectify the problem.

From the very first minute on Saturday though it was clear that the Blue and Blacks were going to take control of proceedings early, and the stats at full-time made it very apparent. We had kicked 34 times rather than 20 for the Stormers, carried the ball 72 times rather than 95 for the Stormers, and conceded just four turnovers, rather than 20 for the Stormers.

That crucially led to the two tries for Cardiff, as Theo Cabango and Jason Harries got on the end of Rhys Priestland kicks, as well as kept us right in the territory and possession battles, but perhaps most importantly it kept the South African sides at arms length from our 22 where their power game and particularly their driving maul were devastatingly effective.

Priestland was at the forefront of that, controlling the tactical kicking game with a level of class that 15 years and over 300 career games for club and country offers, ably assisted by Tomos Williams at scrum-half and an assured performance from Ben Thomas making a first league start at full-back as he returned from a spell on the sidelines following shoulder surgery.

Up front there were certainly messages sent to Wayne Pivac by overlooked Wales trio Rhys Carre, James Botham and Thomas Young, but perhaps most importantly certain players recently punished for their roles in the incident at The Grange stood up and put in performances that went some way to starting to make amends, and showed a pride in the jersey.

There is still work to be done to fully make amends, but if those players, along with the wider squad, are going to continue to put in 110% efforts as a basic requirement week-in, week-out, then at least some good will come from an embarrassing situation for the individuals and the club.

That basic requirement will be needed again this weekend as the defence will face a first serious test since the trip to Glasgow in round two with the arrival of Scottish counterparts Edinburgh to the Arms Park, the top scorers in the United Rugby Championship so far this season.

While both sides will be missing internationals for the game, Mike Blair will still be able to call upon a large overseas contingent including Luan De Bruin, Bill Mata, Emiliano Boffelli and Henry Immelman. Another tough task awaits as the Blue and Blacks look to finish the fixture block on a high.

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