Stormers to switch tack in play-offs

Allister Coetzee tells JON CARDINELLI that the Stormers will squeeze rather than run opponents ragged in next week’s semi-final at Newlands.

Last Saturday’s match in Bloemfontein saw the Stormers scoring four tries and amassing 44 points. It was one of the few occasions in 2011 were the Cape franchise has managed to bag the four-try bonus point, and one of the rarest of instances where their back division has looked dangerous.

Peter Grant made several errors, but brought some stability and purpose to the attack, while the other selections in midfield and in the back three certainly had an impact.

Juan de Jongh and Jaque Fourie combined well in the centres, Jean de Villiers produced some neat touches from the right wing and Gio Aplon offered some much needed variation from fullback.

Coetzee agreed that the backline did well against the Cheetahs, but also reiterated what he had said in the build-up to that game. The backline changes where made for a specific attacking purpose. Coetzee said that the team would need to employ less cavalier tactics in a semi-final situation.

‘We backed horses for courses, and they did well, but it’s difficult to say exactly who will play in the semi-final,’ he told keo.co.za. ‘Obviously we will need to see who we are playing before we make plans and selections.

‘You always need to be a bit more conservative in a one-off game like a semi-final. It could be a real squeeze, and so I’d like to ensure we have the right balance between kicking the ball and keeping it in hand.’

The Crusaders are favourites to beat the Sharks this week, and in that event they will travel to Cape Town for the semi-finals. However, if the Sharks win, the Stormers will play the winner of the Blues vs Waratahs play-off.

Both the Crusaders and Waratahs are renowned for their forward strength, tactical kicking and defence. If either of these teams come up against the Stormers, the Newlands faithful could be in for a tactical arm-wrestle rather than a free-running spectacle.

Coetzee has said on many occasions that it is the objective of his team to win rather than entertain, and even the most romantic of Stormers supporters will find it hard to criticise if a pragmatic game plan yields a title. After all, it’s been 10 years since a Cape team won a trophy if substance.

The Stormers came close to winning the Super 14 title last year, but fell short when they were tactically outplayed by the Bulls. They’ve only lost four games this season, but on each occasion they were outplayed in a similar manner.

Coetzee believes those results will have no bearing on a future play-off encounter, and feels the Stormers have matured since last season. According to Coetzee, they will not repeat the same mistakes.

‘I definitely think this side has grown. We have won a couple of semis, and while we lost two finals we did learn from the experience. We’ve also done well to keep winning this season despite being down to our fifth-choice flyhalf. For me that shows this team has the guts and temperament to be a success.’

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