Allister Coetzee says the Stormers don’t suffer from ‘stage fright’, despite them losing a home semi-final and three other big matches at Newlands this season.
It was the same old, same old disappointment from the Stormers. After the Super 14 final and the Currie Cup semi-final defeats to the Bulls last year, they blew another play-off tie as they delivered a dismal display against the Crusaders that saw them lose 29-10.
Realistically, the Cape side were favourites for the win. The game was played in their own back yard and had the previous week off while the Crusaders had to travel from New Zealand immediately after their qualifier triumph over the Sharks the Saturday before. Despite this advantage, Coetzee’s men imploded. The hosts looked like they were the ones who travelled around the world for the match as they were outplayed and beaten convincingly.
In retrospect, the semi-final hiding against the Crusaders was the Stormers’ fourth big defeat at Newlands in 2011. They lost against the Reds, Crusaders (again) and Bulls during the league stage at home – all pressure fixtures. After the loss against the Bulls, Coetzee defended his team by saying they won more close games this year, even with a flyhalf injury crisis. After Saturday’s semi-final loss, Coetzee lamented the performance but argued that the players didn’t falter because of the pressure.
‘We didn’t suffer from stage fright. We were beaten by a better Crusaders side,’ Coetzee told keo.co.za. ‘There is reason to be critical. We were poor in the scrums, we made elementary errors and the Crusaders capitalised on turnover ball.
‘We also let ourselves down tactically. By half-time, the Crusades made 70 tackles while we only made 20. We had more ball but we were playing it in the wrong areas of the field. We played with two inexperienced scrummies too and they did well. The loss of Dewaldt Duvenage was huge though as he’s been in these type of situations before and he’s been instrumental for us.
‘But I don’t think we lost because of stage fright. We just need to take this defeat on the chin and move on. This has still been a successful season.’
Inside centre Jean de Villiers said the Stormers’ early missed try opportunity had an effect on the game.
‘We scored the first points of the match, but we should’ve scored a try,’ De Villiers said. ‘We ran about four or five phases near the try line and decided to go with the short options. The Crusaders would’ve been happy with only conceding three points in that situation. After that, they scored an intercept try and from then the momentum swung their way.
‘I think these play-off defeats will help us in future seasons. The Bulls lost play-off games before they won their first Super Rugby title. It’s flipping tough but we just need to keep our chins up.’
Coetzee added that he believes silverware will come soon as he plans to bolster his squad, especially now that flanker Francois Louw (Bath) and lock Anton van Zyl (Stade Francais) will head for Europe.
‘We want to win trophies but we will need to create depth in certain positions,’ said Coetzee. ‘The Crusaders had Matt Berquist and Brent Ward to depend on when they had injuries. Both of those players had Super Rugby experience. The Bulls also have depth as they always have quality players coming off their bench.
‘We need to build a squad of 40 players. There’s plenty of character here but we need to get it right. The trophies will come.’
By Gareth Duncan