Stormers to sacrifice style for efficiency

Allister Coetzee maintains that his backline selections are geared towards improved ball retention rather than a drive for a four-try bonus point, reports JON CARDINELLI.

The Stormers need to beat the Cheetahs to book their place in the semi-finals, but they also stand a slim chance of finishing top of the combined log. If the Chiefs beat the Reds convincingly in Hamilton and the Stormers secure a bonus-point win in Bloemfontein, the Cape side will finish in first position.

Changes have been made to the Stormers’ backline that suggest a more attacking strategy could be on the cards. Jean de Villiers has been moved to the wing, Juan de Jongh has been introduced at inside centre, Gio Aplon has shifted to fullback and the best halfback combination of Dewaldt Duvenage and Peter Grant has been reinstated.

While the side does boast a more attacking look, Coetzee said the selections have been made to ensure the team lifts their accuracy levels and wins at all costs.

‘It’s purely a horses for courses selection,’ the Stormers coach told keo.co.za. ‘It’s going to be a fast pitch up in Bloemfontein, and it augers well for a ball-in-hand approach. We’ve picked a team geared for a hard-running, explosive strategy, but we’re not going out there to play all-out attacking rugby. We have to look after the ball.

‘The Cheetahs have nothing to lose and will be looking to play an entertaining brand. For us, it won’t be about entertainment. It will be about winning.’

Stormers captain Schalk Burger admitted the team has much to improve following last week’s defeat to the Bulls. Burger said that after that errant performance, it would be premature to talk about scoring four tries.

‘The bonus point is not exactly at the top of the list of priorities,’ Burger said. ‘We’re looking for a victory to seal our place in the semi-finals.

‘The Bulls deserved to win last week. We made too many errors in the first 60 minutes and put ourselves under pressure. We can’t afford to do that against the Cheetahs, who are a team who really thrives off turnovers.

‘We need to lift our accuracy levels and get into a position to win the game. Obviously if the situation to score four tries presents itself, then we will go for it. But the Cheetahs are a dangerous side, and we can’t take them lightly.’

The Stormers have all but secured the South Africa conference title, and will be awarded the trophy if they beat the Cheetahs this weekend. Both Coetzee and Burger said it will serve as a mark of their consistency, but won’t change the fact that they haven’t won a real title since the 2001 Currie Cup.

‘We’ve worked hard for seven months, and we haven’t worked that hard just to win this [conference] trophy,’ said Coetzee. ‘We always aimed to win the conference, but our main goal has always been to win the competition.’

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