‘Stormers won’t lose structure’

The Bulls’ decision to field their second team won’t affect the Stormers’ mindset ahead of a must-win game at Newlands, says Allister Coetzee.

The final league match between South Africa’s biggest rivals sold out at the end of March, as many anticipated a tense encounter featuring two form sides gunning for a No 1 finish.

However, fans who travel to Newlands on Saturday will witness a very different contest. The Bulls have already secured a home semi-final and will field their B team, while the Stormers, coming off a disappointing loss in Durban, need a victory in order to host a play-off.

Some might suggest a second-string side playing away from home should be easy beats for a team ranked No 2 in the Super 14. But last week’s loss to the Sharks has created a sense of urgency and even desperation in the Stormers’ camp. They need to win this Saturday to book a home semi-final, and will prepare for and play like they’re up against the Bulls’ formidable first-choice line-up.

‘It doesn’t matter who comes to Newlands. This is the biggest game of our season, and we need to make sure we win,’ Coetzee told keo.co.za.

‘I know Frans Ludeke very well, and I know he won’t be coming here to lose. There might be talk about the Bulls doing us a favour, but that’s nonsense. In this competition there are no easy games, and nobody’s going to do you any favours.’

Coetzee cited the Stormers’ failure to front in the physical exchanges as the reason for defeat to the Sharks. The Cape side also made a number of handling errors which is unforgivable considering they only had 41% possession.

The Bulls may be missing some of their first-stringers this Saturday, but Springbok enforcer Bakkies Botha will start as the Bulls’ management feel he requires game time after a lengthy injury layoff. With Botha setting the tone, the Bulls’ pack is likely to inflict a few bruises.

‘The Sharks got stuck into us, and because they had nothing to lose, they weren’t afraid to concede penalties or put their bodies on the line,’ said Coetzee. ‘We are expecting the same kind of attitude when we host the Bulls, so it’s important that we front up.

‘We were on the back foot a lot last week and our game discipline wasn’t good. We have systems that will make the individual look good if they continue to play within those systems. The minute they stray, then it becomes more about the individual than it does the team. We’ve got to stay in our structures.

‘The execution of our kicking is also something that needs to improve. The Bulls have a very strong kicking game, and we have put plans in place to counter. A lot depends on the effort up front, but also on the execution of those kicks at the back.’

While the Stormers coach was disappointed with last week’s result, he’s grateful for the wake up call. In Coetzee’s opinion, he’d rather drop a game against the Sharks and rebound with a win against the Bulls, a win that will confirm a home play-off.

‘That will leave a better taste in the mouth than say beating the Sharks and then losing to the Bulls a week before the play-offs,’ he said.

‘We’re not expecting an easy contest this week and we’re not thinking about things like bonus points as 43 [log] points should be enough to get us that home semi-final [the Stormers also have the advantage of a superior points difference]. We have to be clinical and then take our chances. I’d settle for a 6-3 or 9-6 scoreline, so penalties are going to be important.

‘Nobody remembers the team that played the more entertaining rugby if they lost. We’re looking for the win, and while we have to pitch up physically, we also have to front mentally.’

By Jon Cardinelli