Stormers won't tread Waratahs' path
With so much criticism hissing around them over their failure thus far to score a four-try bonus point, Stormers coach Allister Coetzee and captain Jean de Villiers appear to feel it is apt that the Waratahs are the visitors to Newlands this coming weekend.
Coetzee has not forgotten the flak that the Waratahs took from their own media a few years ago when they were, to use the cliché, winning ugly. At the time the Waratahs were doing that – winning – but their supporters weren’t happy as they were not satisfying rule No 1 of Australian rugby, which is that the fans are entertained by running rugby and spectacular tries.
“Maybe people here will remember what happened a few years ago when the Waratahs were being consistent and were near the top of the log, but their fans and their media and administrators were unhappy because they weren’t scoring tries,” recalled Coetzee.
“Fans were consulted, everyone had their say, and the result was that the Waratahs started to play more attractive rugby but they lost games and have not been as consistent again.”
De Villiers, while noting that his team understood the Cape rugby culture and the accent on attack that is accepted as the signature of Western Province rugby, backed up his coach by saying that he would rather be part of a consistent team that made a habit of winning matches than one that played attractive rugby and lost.
“Everyone talks about the Bulls when we refer to the winning of trophies in this country but I am not sure how many people remember the type of rugby the Bulls played in their first season of success back in 2002,” said De Villiers.
“They played a very conservative game based around Derrick Hougaard’s boot (and one-off runners and narrow channels). But they won the Currie Cup that season and everyone loved them for it. The achievement of winning a trophy shaded out all other considerations. We in the Cape haven’t seen a trophy for a long time.
“It’s easy for people to find negatives, but what I do know is that the most important thing if you want to win a trophy is that you have to win. I am not saying we are the finished product, but we have won nine out of 10 games and if the one negative is that we are winning but not scoring tries, then I am happy to live with that.”
De Villiers said his team would love to score four tries in every game and thus keep everyone happy, but circumstances never really allowed that.
LACK OF CONSISTENCY
He pinpointed lack of consistency in some matches rather than any massive weakness in the attacking game as the reason that his team has failed to score four-try bonus points, something that is coming back to bite them in the log battle, as they have won more games than any other team and yet are trailing the Bulls.
“I remember a few years ago we would have loved to just get a couple of consecutive wins under the belt, but we were unable to do so. Now the wins are coming, but the tries aren’t. We know what the public want, but we also know what we are trying to achieve. We are trying to put ourselves in with a chance of winning the trophy.
“I think our attacking game will come right. We are not the finished article yet. I think the biggest problem we have, which is a separate issue to scoring four tries, is finishing opponents off. We start off well and have opposition teams under pressure, and then let them back into the game. As I said this past weekend, the last 40 minutes against the Cheetahs was unacceptably poor.”
De Villiers is right when he pinpoints the intensity fluctuations during the game as one of the reasons that his men haven’t buried any opposing team this season under a high-scoring avalanche.
They looked set to get it right when they led 18-0 against the Lions at Coca-Cola Park, but allowed them back into the game, and did the same when they led 14-0 against the Bulls in the big Newlands derby a week later.
Then came the Cheetahs game this past weekend, where the Stormers led 16-0 at the break but then conceded two tries while being unable to cross the line themselves in the second half.
“There are circumstances that sometimes mitigate you being able to put an opposing team away,” said De Villiers.
“This last weekend we were leading 16-7 and building up for a try that could have made it 23-7 when a pass was intercepted and a try was scored on the other end of the field. That made it a different game in the last minutes.”
The Stormers also conceded a big lead but fortunately were able to re-gather themselves in the tournament opener against the Hurricanes, while Coetzee remembers another game which might suggest it is not just this season’s problem.
“Our tendency to allow teams back in the third quarter is not just something we have noticed this year. You may recall the game against the Chiefs we played in Hamilton last year when we were well up at halftime and they came back to beat us,” said the coach.