Coach Allister Coetzee was naturally disappointed with his team’s final-day Vodacom Super Rugby defeat to the Sharks, but he praised the DHL Stormers’ character after a tough 2014 season for the Cape side.
The DHL Stormers, the 2011 and 2012 SA Conference winners, finished 11th on the standings this season – via seven wins and nine defeats – with Saturday’s 10-34 defeat at DHL Newlands against a hungry Sharks side signalling the end of their 2014 campaign.
“It was not a good way to finish (the Super Rugby season), but credit to the Sharks who will take a lot of confidence out of this match,” said the DHL Stormers coach on Saturday night.
The Stormers lost the gainline battle for most of the way and their attacking intentions were foiled by a string of penalties.
“The breakdown was difficult and we could not play without quick ball,” Coetzee added.
“The Sharks had the upperhand at the breakdown and then it did not help our cause that so many penalties went against us. In the end, we gave away two soft tries, but the match was much closer than the final scoreline reflects.”
Looking back at a tough 2014 campaign, which saw the DHL Stormers fight a tough draw and numerous injuries to some of their top players, Coetzee told www.iamastormer.com: “I wish I could have had a say in the amount of injuries we had, but unfortunately that was out of my control.
“Every season you learn a few things and it is just tough not to be in the play-offs. For us, as the DHL Stormers, it’s not good enough.
“The fact that we turned things around shows the character of the side, it shows the leadership that is here. If I look back I look at that Crusaders game (in Christchurch in early March) which could have turned our season around if we had won that one (but we lost by a point).”
Whilst No.8 Nizaam Carr and centre Damian de Allende, both still young men and relatively new to Super Rugby, once again put their hands up for the DHL Stormers, the likes of Ali Vermaak, Oli Kebble, Sti Sithole, Stephan Coetzee, Michael Willemse, Ruan Botha, Jurie van Vuuren, Jean Kleyn, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Dylon Frylinck, Cheslin Kolbe, Devon Williams, Michael van der Spuy, Seabelo Senatla and Kobus van Wyk all made their debuts at Super Rugby level this year.
“For any coach you have got to look at the volume that you expose your players to, and try and curb that because volume is definitely one of the big things that leads to injuries,” said Coetzee.
“I have done my best to rest and manage players like Duane Vermeulen and Jean de Villiers. it is not just about how much they play, but also during the week managing the players properly.
“Once you build momentum in a competition, you play your best players. It is proven that if you play with the same players 75% of the time you will get the right result.
“Look at the (table-topping) Waratahs and see how many times they have rotated this year, they are log-leaders and they have played with a similar side throughout the competition.”
Meanwhile, DHL Stormers skipper Schalk Burger – who will head to Japan now but return to the Cape for the 2015 Super Rugby season – praised the Sharks ahead of the upcoming play-offs.
“They had three try-scoring opportunities and scored three tries,” said Burger. “We kept them deep in their half for almost the entire second half, but could not put any points on the board.”