The Stormers are more concerned with their inability to produce an 80-minute performance than the dearth of four-try bonus points.
The Cape franchise may be the best defensive side in the tournament, and they may boast a record of nine wins in 10 matches, but that impressive winning record hasn’t been enough to keep them at the top of the South African conference.
Coach Allister Coetzee, however, says four-try bonus points won’t matter if the team continues to win. Coetzee is of the belief that defence wins matches, and that an obsession with attack may compromise the ability to obtain the desired result.
Both the Stormers coach and captain believe that the public and media are wrong to obsess about the bonus-point issue. Jean de Villiers said on Wednesday that while the team was disappointed with recent performances, they viewed it as a matter of consistency rather than an indictment on their attack.
Too often this season the Stormers have put early points on an opponent and then failed to hammer home the advantage. The Stormers led the Bulls 14-0, but only managed to edge that encounter 20-17. Last week’s clash against the Cheetahs saw the Stormers leading 16-0 at half-time, but a poor third-quarter allowed the visitors back into the contest.
‘I think from a fans and media point of view, it will always be easy to find the negative,’ said De Villiers. ‘But then [from our point of view] if we are winning every game and our not scoring tries is the negative, then it shows that we are in a good position.
‘I remember a few years ago we would have done anything to have won a game, but the results weren’t coming. Now we are playing winning rugby but the tries aren’t coming.
‘We know what the public want, but we also know what we are trying to achieve. I’m not saying we’re the finished product, we aren’t. I do believe at some stage we will come right on attack.’
De Villiers stressed that a more consistent showing over 80 minutes could be the answer. As seen in the games against the Bulls and Cheetahs, and several other matches this season where the Stormers have allowed opponents back into the contest, the Cape side has been guilty of complacency at certain stages.
‘That has been a big focus for us, we have to improve in that area. We have got ourselves into good positions, but have not finished the opposition off,’ said De Villiers.
‘Some people may see it as the same thing as failing to score four tries. It’s not the same thing. We are looking to put together an 80-minute performance.’
De Villiers suggested that if the Stormers can execute effectively and consistently, they may create more try-scoring opportunities. When a team is playing catch-up rugby, they tend to take chances and leave themselves vulnerable to counter-attacks, and it is here where a more consistent Stormers side can punish a trailing opponent.
The Stormers will persist with their game plan when they go up against the Waratahs this Saturday. The side from Sydney are set to pick a powerful pack and boast a solid defence and kicking game. Wet weather has also been forecast for Saturday, and so another big physical and tactical tussle is expected. A try-fest is highly unlikely.
By Jon Cardinelli