Cape Town – Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has admitted that his team’s performance throughout the season “wasn’t good enough” as they missed out on the playoffs despite recording their fourth victory in a row at the weekend.
The Stormers held off a spirited Southern Kings side 24-12 at a packed Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, but the match was of academic interest on the Super Rugby log as the six qualifiers for the playoffs had already been decided.
The Stormers boasted one of their best-ever squads this year after acquiring the services of Lions players Elton Jantjies, Jaco Taute and later Martin Bezuidenhout on loan, while also signing on two other Lions in Pat Cilliers and Michael Rhodes.
But Coetzee said that the never-ending injury list had scuppered the Stormers’ hopes of finally clinching the Super Rugby title after they had tripped up at the semi-final and final hurdles over the last three years.
“It was definitely our mission to be in the playoffs, but obviously it didn’t pan out like that. It was down to a number of issues. We had a few missed opportunities this season, and our performance wasn’t good enough. That is why we didn’t make the playoffs,” the coach told the Cape Times from Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
“I never had the strong squad, which was the problem. The names were there, but I never had them. That’s the reality. Pat and Rynhardt came back now, but since five or six weeks ago, I didn’t have them. Names like Frans Malherbe, Pat Cilliers, Tiaan Liebenberg, Andries Bekker and a Rynhardt, Duane, Schalk, Michael Rhodes, Peter Grant. Jean being out, Jaco Taute didn’t play much.
“So, it’s been quite a tough challenge, having to juggle with the injuries. We couldn’t really build momentum. But we still had some lost opportunities, which is the frustration – that we let ourselves down. Certain areas of the game at different stages of the competition. But we seemed to have stepped up and got it right towards the latter part now.
“Look, let me also be honest as well in saying that there were calls that didn’t go our way in certain games, which could’ve changed the whole thing.”
So, the Stormers’ run of four wins came too late, but Coetzee said that the team are highly motivated to finish strongly against the Bulls at Newlands. Jantjies scored his first points for the Cape side on Saturday night by slotting four out of four goal-kicks following an injury to Joe Pietersen.
“I don’t have the exact stats, but the Kings probably made over 250 tackles. That is credit to the way we attacked. I thought that we attacked very well, but the finishing wasn’t always there. We left tries out there. It showed how desperate the Kings were to win their last home game,” Coetzee said.
“There was also some off-the-ball stuff, so it wasn’t the easy game that some people thought it would be. They chucked everything into it. We know that it was negative at the breakdown, but I don’t think the ref wanted to blow everything, as he tried hard to make it a free-flowing game. I thought that we had enough ball to work with, but it was just the last pass that didn’t go to hand. Deon Fourie (who scored two tries) was the Man of the Match. Bryan and Deon had very good games.”
Captain Jean de Villiers (sternum) may return for the Bulls clash, while hooker Tiaan Liebenberg (back) will be assessed at training today. “Joe just had a lammie, knock to the leg. He should be fine to play. De Allende has a bit of an ankle, but he should also be okay. I will see Tiaan on Monday, as I didn’t see him last week. Jean could be ready for this week, but he has to go through contact and testing to see how he feels.”
As for next season, the Stormers are set to hold on to the bulk of their squad, including signing Taute permanently. Jantjies’s future is less certain, and Coetzee confirmed that the 22-year-old flyhalf will play for the Lions in the Super Rugby promotion-relegation series against the Kings on July 26 and August 2. Taute is out for the season with a knee injury.
It is believed that the Stormers are trying to bolster their squad for 2014 with Cheetahs scrumhalf Piet van Zyl and prop Trevor Nyakane, as well as Sharks lock Pieter-Steph du Toit and Bulls utility back Lionel Mapoe.
Coetzee said: “Cheslin Kolbe is sorted. Cheslin is a Cape Town boy and he is staying here.” – Cape Times