Stormers target final flourish

Despite a four from five record, Allister Coetzee says the final fixture before the Stormers’ Australasian tour is crucial to their play-off ambitions.

The Cape franchise will play one more match in Cape Town before preparing for a four-match tour Down Under. They’ve played themselves into a fantastic position not only in the context of the log, but in the context of the competition.

And yet, Coetzee has called for calm. You’d expect them to scalp the Heinrich Brussow-less Cheetahs this weekend and head on tour with a firm foothold in the top four. You’d expect them to collect five points from the Force fixture, bury the Blues and battle to a tight wins over the Reds and Chiefs.

For the underachieving Cape outfit, things are looking up, but the man at the helm is only looking straight ahead.

Coetzee has place special importance on Saturday’s match. Forget the opposition. In the Stormers’ coach’s opinion, a win before a Australasian tour is vital.

‘It’s a crucial game before the bye. It’s important that we go on tour in a good position,’ he told keo.co.za. ‘It wouldn’t matter who we were playing this weekend, a win would be all-important. We have to build on what we’ve done well, and cut out the mistakes.’

It may seem like the Stormers are playing a more attacking brand than they did in their error-strewn loss to the Brumbies. The Newlands crowd booed when a Stormers player put boot to ball, and it took all of eighty minutes before the hosts crossed the tryline.

The subsequent fortnight has witnessed nine tries in all, but Coetzee maintains there’s been no tactical change. The Stormers have sharpened their attack by taking the right options and executing their game plan. Kicking is still prominent, but is now more accurate.

They’re likely to stick to their structures when they host the Cheetahs, but Coetzee acknowledged this opposition brings a new challenge. At the beginning of the season, you wouldn’t back the Cheetahs to upset anybody but the Lions and possibly the Sharks, but the central franchise has already beaten the much-fancied Canes.

‘They disrupted the Canes when they played them two weeks ago,’ said Coetzee. ‘They are a dangerous attacking side and their set-piece is good. We can’t underestimate them. The Canes did, and they got hammered.’

The steady improvement of this Stormers side has Coetzee quietly confident about Saturday’s derby. The Stormers have the pack to deal with the traditionally physical Cheetahs, and they’re also the more clinical side when it comes to law adaptation at the ruck.

The work at the breakdown was a big feature in last Saturday’s win, and that discipline will help the Stormers’ cause this week. As seen in the Cheetahs vs Canes match, you can’t afford to concede penalties because Naas Oliver and Meyer Bosman are capable of punishing you on the scoreboard.

Coetzee added there’s no risk of the Stormers becoming arrogant at this stage of the competition. They beat the Canes 37-13, but as the coach was quick to admit, there were a few instances where poor decision making cost them points. They won’t always get away with these misses, and that’s why they need to start making the right decision sooner rather than later.

‘We have to stick to our systems, but players are allowed to express themselves within those systems. When the opportunity arrives, however, the player needs to make the right decision.

‘One example was the try Brok Harris could have scored on Saturday [where the TMO ruled the prop knocked on]. If we had just gone to the other side of the ruck, we would have scored easily.

‘We’ve got to be more clinical. We need to take our chances this week regardless of the opposition. We want to solidify our position on the log and stay favourably in the hunt for a play-off spot. To do that, we have to win this weekend.’

By Jon Cardinelli