Keep calm and chase the bonus

Play-off spot still pos­si­ble, but Storm­ers must be dis­ci­plined

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - GAVIN RICH

THE ex­cel­lent win the Cru­saders scored against the Chiefs in Christchurch yes­ter­day should have en­cour­aged Storm­ers fans who have spent the week dream­ing the im­pos­si­ble is in­deed pos­si­ble as they go into a day that will ei­ther ex­tin­guish or re­vive their 2012 Su­per Rugby hopes.

The Cru­saders started the week­end need­ing to win with a bonus point and keep the Chiefs from scor­ing any to re­tain hope of win­ning the New Zealand con­fer­ence with one match to go.

It seemed un­likely, but they man­aged to get the first part of that goal done yes­ter­day and now it’s all down to the fi­nal week­end for them.

Will the Storm­ers be in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion later to­day by find­ing that their chal­lenge for a place in the top six will be sus­tained into one more week?

Where their sit­u­a­tion dif­fers from that of the Cru­saders is their fate is not in their hands – all the talk of pos­si­ble fairy­tale end­ings to the sea­son for ei­ther Storm­ers or Sharks fans could be ended by the early game this af­ter­noon.

If the Chee­tahs beat the Blues in Bloem­fontein, their guar­an­teed four log points for next week’s bye will be enough to se­cure them a place in the play-offs, and they will be too far ahead of the two coastal teams.

So there is po­ten­tial for an hugely ex­cit­ing evening of view­ing tonight, with ev­ery­thing on the line for South African par­tic­i­pants – save the Kings.

Or it could all just be a huge anti-cli­max, with the only real in­ter­est be­ing whether the Bulls can beat the Sharks and thus leapfrog the Chiefs into top po­si­tion on the over­all log.

What hap­pens though if it is the first sce­nario?

A Chee­tahs de­feat will give the Storm­ers a def­i­nite sniff, and it in­tro­duces the ques­tion of how they go about chas­ing the bonus point vic­tory over the Kings in Port El­iz­a­beth to­day that they need in or­der for next week’s clash against South­ern Kings: SP Marais, Michael Kil­lian, Ron­nie Cooke, An­dries Strauss (capt), Mar­cello Samp­son, Demetri Ca­trak­ilis, Shaun Venter, Jac­ques En­gel­brecht, Wimpie van der Walt, Cor­nell du Preez, David Bul­bring, Dar­ron Nell, Grant Kemp, Ban­dise Maku, Schalk Fer­reira. Hannes Franklin, Charl du Plessis, Steven Sykes, Devin Oosthuizen, Ni­co­las Ver­gallo, Geo rge White­head, Shane Gates Storm­ers: Joe Pi­etersen, Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Damian de Al­lende, Bryan Ha­bana, El­ton Jan­tjies, Louis Schreuder, Nizaam Carr, Don Ar­mand, Deon Fourie (capt), De Kock Steenkamp, Eben Etze­beth, Brok Har­ris, Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kit­shoff. Re­place­ments: Martin Bezuiden­hout, Pat Cil­liers, Ger­brandt Grob­ler, Ryn­hardt El­stadt, Nic Groom, Gary van Aswe­gen, Ger­hard van den Heever Ref­eree: Lourens van der Merwe Kick-off: 5.05pm – TV: Live on Su­perS­port1

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P9 61 7 59 7 59 8 56 6 54 6 46 4 44 12 44 6 42 6 42 7 39 8 32 5 27 2 24 6 22 icant role in win­ning the game against the Chee­tahs last week.

In rugby ev­ery­thing fits to­gether and lit­tle hap­pens in iso­la­tion. It is no co­in­ci­dence that the run of three vic­to­ries the Storm­ers have scored have come at a time when they have fi­nally got their basics right and are se­cur­ing some form of first phase bridge­head.

The big men must get on top of their Kings op­po­nents in the same man­ner they did in brief patches in the first round in Cape Town two matches ago.

Only this time the dom­i­na­tion will have to be more com­plete, and the driv­ing and maul­ing is go­ing to have to be some­thing near­ing an 80minute pro­ject rather than just a 20-minute one.

Storm­ers coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee said it dur­ing the week: “We be­lieve in lay­ing the foun­da­tion for the vic­tory first and fore­most and then if there is to be a bonus point it will fol­low from us build­ing an in­nings.”

Coet­zee is right, and what he says is also ob­vi­ous – if you don’t win, the bonus point for scor­ing four tries is pretty worth­less.

The Storm­ers messed it up in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion when they needed to score a bonus point win against the Lions to sneak into the 2008 Su­per 14 play-offs when Rassie Eras­mus was the coach, so Coet­zee, who was as­sis­tant back then, does speak from ex­pe­ri­ence.

That day the Storm­ers were too loose and ragged in their quest for the bonus, and as a con­se­quence there was a stage when they looked in dan­ger of los­ing the game.

And the Kings are also not to be un­der­es­ti­mated.

In fact, at their home field, they could well push the Storm­ers, who al­though they dis­played good form in beat­ing the Chee­tahs are still with­out way too many key play­ers to re­al­is­ti­cally chal­lenge for any tro­phy.

Thoughts of the Storm­ers be­com­ing Su­per Rugby cham- pi­ons this year be­long in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

But in a sea­son which has re­alised so lit­tle for the New­lands faith­ful it would be great to have some­thing rid­ing on next week’s game, so to­day is cer­tainly a day they should be go­ing all out for full points.

First though the Blues have to do their bit by beat­ing the Chee­tahs, who may have re­ceived their wake-up call at the hands of the Storm­ers last week.

Gallo Im­ages

ALL TO PLAY FOR: For the Storm­ers to suc­ceed to­day, much will de­pend on El­ton Jan­tjies’ kick­ing out of hand against the South­ern Kings.

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