A frustrated and disappointed Dave Wessels says the Rebels need an honest examination of how they allowed their intensity to drop to substandard levels if they are to regroup in time to compete with the Waratahs in next weekend’s derby.
The Rebels suffered their first loss in Australia this season, going down 41-24 to the Stormers in a lacklustre showing at AAMI Stadium on Friday night.
An outfit that has taken great pride in the effort it puts into the contest – especially in the contact areas – the Rebels were outgunned by a Stormers side desperate to notch a win before heading home from their four-game Australasian tour.
“We just didn’t bring the level of intensity required to win a Super Rugby game, it’s as simple as that,” Wessels said.
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“We were beaten in the contact areas, we were beaten in the effort areas, something that we’ve been very proud about all year.
“I’m very disappointed about that. I think we’re a good team, I think we’ve played badly today.
“We’ve got to figure out and be honest about why that’s happened because we’ve got a hell of a game next week.”
Captain Angus Cottrell defended his team against suggestions of complacency but Wessels had to disagree with his leader, saying all members of the team – including him as coach – had probably been guilty of taking shortcuts over the past week.
“I think we’ve been playing well and we felt good and we felt we could do 80 or 90 per cent of the prep and get away with it,” Wessels said.
“But that’s not how Super Rugby works. And huge credit to the Stormers, they’ve come here right from the first whistle with a lot of enthusiasm and they’ve just belted us.
“Instead of fighting back and playing with intensity, which is what we normally do, we just let them get on top of us. So they thoroughly deserved to win.
“This is our seventh game in the block, so maybe there’s a bit of fatigue on board but that’s what it takes to be a championship team.
“You can’t pick and choose your moments and rock into things half-heartedly because you get a smack which is what happened today.”
From missed tackles and soft ball carries to poor support and lethargic kick chases, the Rebels were off their game enough to crash to a comprehensive loss.
But Wessels said the lure of a derby against the Waratahs provided the perfect tonic.
“If someone had offered me you can either beat the Stormers or the Waratahs, I’ll take the Waratahs,” he said.
“So that one’s still on the table but we’ve got to make ourselves right in the next couple of days to still make that happen.
“We’ve got to make sure the detail’s right in our preparation.
“We’re going into a rest week after the Waratahs game, so we can absolutely pour everything into this week and get some time off at the end of that.
“I’m actually okay to play against a really world-class team, and lose, as long as we’ve played okay.
“But I’m very disappointed and angry in everybody because I don’t think that we’ve done our part in that – we haven’t played our version of our best selves and that’s not acceptable.
“We’ve got every chance of playing well again next week, we’ve just got to be honest with each other now and figure out why we let what happened, happen.”
The Rebels’ unbeaten Australian run has come to an end after a 41-24 loss to the Stormers.
Without a win in the first three games of their Australasian tour, the Stormers were desperate to head home with a victory and outmuscled a Melbourne side that failed to adjust to their physical defence.
Despite levelling the scores early in the second term, the Rebels fell behind by three converted tries by the 60th minute and while they fought their way back into the match in the dying stages, a late intercept try to Ruhan Nel sealed the win for the visitors.
The Stormers took a 10-3 lead to the break after scoring in the opening minutes and defended doggedly to hold the Australian conference leaders out.
The Rebels made the perfect start to the second term, levelling the scores with a converted try after Reece Hodge swooped on a looping pass from Stormers flyhalf Jean Luc du Plessis, plucking it from the air before it could reach fullback Damian Willemse.
With captain Siya Kolisi and Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit already missing for this match, the Stormers suffered a massive setback when no.8 Jaco Coetzee limped off with a knee injury early in the second term.
But any suggestion they would fold easily was dismissed when Juarno Augustus crossed following a neat short-side move.
And when centre Damian de Allende scored in the 51st minute, the Rebels were down by two converted tries.
The wheels continued to fall off for the Rebels, Nel crossing after Quade Cooper fumbled a wickedly bouncing ball and replacement flyhalf Josh Stander converting the try and then a penalty from 50m which bounced off the crossbar and through the posts to extend their lead to 24 points.
Regardless of the result, the final stages were going to tell plenty about the Rebels.
Tries to Will Genia and Campbell Magnay got them back into the match and only Nel’s intercept finally sealed the match for the visitors.
But the Rebels will be disappointed with their inability to change plans on the run after the Stormers’ line speed and crushing defence disrupted their flat attack.
The Stormers failed to score in the first half against the Reds last week but they created chances early when a crossfield kick from du Plessis found Nel who stepped into touch deep inside the Rebels territory.
But Dillyn Leyds was in less than a minute later after the Rebels turned over the ball and the winger found himself in a yawning gap in the middle of the field.
Cooper got the Rebels on the board when he converted a penalty in the 22nd minute but their own ruck infringement just minutes later led to an opportunity for du Plessis which he slotted to restore the Stormers’ seven-point buffer.
Junior Wallaby Semisi Tupou looked certain to celebrate his Rebels starting debut with a try but he spilt a pin-point Cooper cross over the line in what became an all-too-familiar trait for the home side throughout the second half.
Tries: Dillyn Leyds, Juarno Augustus, Damian de Allende, Ruhan Nel 2
Cons: Jean-Luc du Plessis 2, Josh Stander 3
Pens: Du Plessis, Stander
Tries: Reece Hodge, Will Genia, Campbell Magnay
Cons: Quade Cooper 3