Keep calm and chase the bonus
Play-off spot still possible, but Stormers must be disciplined
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
Bye 2 2 2 2 2 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
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.
ALL TO PLAY FOR: For the Stormers to succeed today, much will depend on Elton Jantjies’ kicking out of hand against the Southern Kings.