Coetzee denies there is pressure
DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee denies that last week’s result against the Vodacom Bulls has placed extra pressure on his team as they approach Saturday’s crucial Vodacom Super Rugby coastal derby against the Sharks at Kings Park.
The Stormers were emphatically outplayed at Loftus, and although there has subsequently been acknowledgement from the Sanzar refereeing chief that Jaco Peyper got it wrong when he awarded the Bulls their second try, in reality the final scoreline flattered the visitors. Had the Bulls taken their chances they would have won by a double figure score, and for the first time in ages the Stormers ended a game without even picking up so much as a bonus point.
However, if the Stormers are concerned, they are making a good fist of trying to pretend that they aren’t. Although a defeat to the Sharks in Durban would make it two-zip in terms of losses to wins this season, Coetzee has actually gone as far as to suggest that the results at this time of the season are irrelevant.
“The result at this stage of the competition is completely irrelevant and doesn’t put pressure on us,” said Coetzee.
“The Sharks lost two in a row last year and they went on to play in the final. The team we have selected for the Durban game is a good one but we know it will be tough. Nothing in this competition is ever easy.”
For the sake of Stormers supporters it is to be hoped that Coetzee doesn’t mean that too literally, for while it is true that the Sharks did come back to play in the final, it was because of the log points they lost out on early in the competition that they were unable to win the South African conference. And that condemned them to an away sequence of matches in the playoffs that only really the most passionate and naïve Sharks supporter ever believed they could overcome to actually win the trophy.
They did well to beat the Reds in Brisbane in the quarterfinal and then the Stormers in Cape Town, but travelling back to New Zealand to then play a final was always going to be a bridge too far, and the Sharks themselves knew that.
It is fair to say the Sharks peaked at the right time last year, and picking up from what the Stormers personnel have been saying so far this year, that appears to be what the Cape side want to do in 2013 after in previous seasons they’ve reached the business end of competition running on empty.
However, if Coetzee really believes the Sharks’ timing was spot on in 2012, he could have done himself a favour by being at a Sharks press conference in Durban this week, when coach John Plumtree said what was tantamount to the complete opposite. Indeed, Plumtree says his men are extra motivated to be more consistent from beginning to end this year precisely because they want to avoid a repeat of last year’s nightmare schedule.
“You really don’t want to be playing the quarterfinal in Australia. Winning the conference is definitely the easiest way to win the competition, and that is what we are aiming to do. The key is to be consistent, and not lose games that you should win, like we did last year,” said Plumtree.