The Vodacom Stormers have to regroup quickly before Saturday’s all-important final league match in the Vodacom Super 14 competition against the Bulls at Newlands.
The team lost 20-14 to the Sharks in Durban on Saturday and now has to beat the defending champions to ensure a semi-final berth. Saturday’s performance was marred by several missed first-time tackles, poor handling, poor decision-making and a substandard scrumming display.
Coach Allister Coetzee afterwards lamenting his team’s inability to protect their possession and said it cost them victory ¬¬- one that could have secured them a home semi-final. Now they have it all to play for on Saturday against the defending champions.
Coetzee said the mistakes can be traced back to the insufficient effort at the ruck and tackle. “You can’t play if you can’t hold onto the ball. We were terrible in this regard, and the players understand that they have let themselves down badly.
“If you don’t protect the ball and you lose possession, then obviously your defence is going to suffer, because you are essentially defending against your own ball.”
The former Springbok assistant coach admitted the Stormers blew a big opportunity against the fired-up Sharks. “We just didn’t pitch up. We knew we had to pitch up and get the points, as it would mean less pressure in the final game against the Bulls.
“There are no excuses, and the guys are disappointed. We are going to have to pitch up against the Bulls if we’re going to ensure we make the semifinals.”
The Stormers didn’t resemble the side that annihilated the much-vaunted Crusaders just a week earlier and the cohesion on attack was gone. Their coach, however, has not lost faith in his side and believes they have what it takes to upset the Bulls.
“We haven’t played to the best of our ability, and the guys know that. They know they are a damn good side and that should give them confidence. We have to pick ourselves up.
“While we were poor, I have to give credit to the Sharks. Their physicality was outstanding and it was very tough at the breakdown.”
The bonus point – clinched when flanker Francois Louw scored a try on the hooter and Peter Grant’s converted – could yet prove to be the Stormers’ saving grace. Coetzee said earning the bonus point was a positive. “When we kept the ball, we prospered. When I saw them keeping it, I thought, ‘Why couldn’t we have done this from the beginning?’
‘The bonus point was a positive, as was the fightback in the dying stages to ensure we got it. That’s the kind of attitude we’ll need next week.’
Good news for Stormers supporters is that captain Schalk Burger, who dislocated his finger but finished the game, will face the Bulls. Wing Bryan Habana, who missed this clash due to a rib injury, is also on the mend and should be ready to face his former team-mates.