Jean not fretting over penalty decisions
He admitted after last week’s game that the decision to set up the lineout instead of going for posts with a penalty awarded the Stormers in the first half may have cost his team, but Jean de Villiers won’t be going into the match against the Waratahs with any pre-conceived plan on what to do in a repeat situation.
The Stormers were trailing 6-3 and battling to get the scoreboard ticking over when they were presented with a penalty almost in front of the posts against the Blues in Albany last Friday.
Instead of squaring up the scores at 6-all, De Villiers opted to go for the possible seven-pointer. But his team was denied by a slip of the foot and they were unable to get over the line.
Saturday’s match against the Waratahs is a must-win game for the Stormers if they want to remain competitive in the South African Vodacom Super Rugby conference, and another defeat now will leave them with a mountain to climb even to qualify as a wildcard. The Stormers can’t afford to lose another game that they should have won, which most who saw the game would agree is what happened last week.
“Those penalty decisions are always a tough one as sometimes you just feel that you should back your lineout maul,” said De Villiers.
“Against the Hurricanes the previous week we scored off the maul and it helped us win a close game. In Albany I backed the boys and went for the same decision and it just never worked out for us. Similar decisions have put us in a position to score tries on other occasions. Those are just the decisions you take in the game and you have to go with your gut feel.
“What is important is that everyone on the field agrees with it and backs it. As long as that is the case, then it is okay.”
So if a similar situation presents itself in Sydney, De Villiers will go on his gut feel and how he is reading the play at that stage, and it will be the same when it comes to the tactics against a Waratahs team that are well equipped to punish any misdirected kicks and any tardiness in the Stormers’ chasing of kicks.
“There will be opportunities for us to keep the ball in hand and there will be opportunities for us to put in tactical kicks. It will come down to the decision-making at the time,” he said.
De Villiers was asked during a teleconference call to the team hotel in Sydney whether he was concerned that the bigger Waratahs back three could use their superior height to beat the much smaller back three in the air and thus create attacking opportunities that way. If he is concerned, he wasn’t letting on.
“I don’t think so. Our guys in the back three may be small, but they tend to fight above their weight. I have total confidence in the backline we have and I am not too worried about our defence. I am more concerned about what we could bring from an attacking point of view. Defence is not a problem for us.
“A lot will as usual also depend on how we play the referee. The New Zealand media felt the Blues were a bit lucky with regards to the referee interpretations last week. But we have to get on with it and just make sure we adapt during the game. I know that it is quite difficult at times, but we’ve got to look at the referee interpretations early in the game and then adapt.”
The Waratahs’ freakishly skilled big fullback Israel Folau has attracted a lot of media attention for his recent form, and it was his individual brilliance that set up the first try the Waratahs scored within 38 seconds of the start of the match against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth last week and which set his team on the way to a massive win.
However, while he is obviously a threat, De Villiers doesn’t appear too perturbed about the individuals in the Waratahs team.
“He played well last week and the Waratahs obviously played well as a team but it all depends on what they can bring and what we can do to stop them on Saturday. My first priority is to stop their centres. And for us to take the opportunities we missed out on last week.
"I thought we had plenty of opportunities to score tries, but we’re just not finishing off. That is a concern. Hopefully we can capitalise on any opportunities we are able to create this weekend.”