Vodacom Super 14

Stormers earn Todd's nod

2010-05-01 07:17
Jaque Fourie (File)
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – It’s official … the 2010 Stormers have gained a vote of championship confidence from the Crusaders, the most iconic team in Vodacom Super rugby history.

The seven-time champions were thrashed 42-14 at Newlands on Friday night, their heaviest reverse to these opponents, eclipsing a 49-28 result at the same venue in 2001.

And the New Zealanders were magnanimous about the outcome, which completed a five-match clean sweep by Schalk Burger’s men against teams from that country this season and further imperilled the Crusaders’ semi-final hopes.

Coach Todd Blackadder said he felt the Stormers, who moved to eight wins and a rosy 38 points with two fixtures to go, were “most certainly capable” of going all the way to the title for the first time.

“They’ve got everything right that makes a good team, I think – a good scrum and lineout, great goal-kicker (in Peter Grant) and really good ball-runners. They really attack the line and run hard.

“There’s serious strike power in their ranks. If they can keep playing like they did here, they’ll be real contenders.”

Blackadder’s Stormers counterpart, Allister Coetzee, was cagey when asked whether the victory was their best of the campaign: there have been other high-calibre ones like the bonus-point triumphs over the Hurricanes at home and Chiefs away.

“It was one of the better performances, for sure. I’m very proud of the players for the way they responded after the loss to the Reds.

There was physical intensity and once again the right composure – that’s one area of this team which I think we’ve really grown in the last couple of months.

“They scored a try from a charge-down early in the game but we held our nerve and played the game in the right areas. We fixed the mistakes we made last week, so it was really a pleasing performance.”

Coetzee praised flyhalf Grant: “Once again he was an unsung hero, dictating the game for us. He kicked well and moved the ball too.

“The fact that we played with so much width tonight … that is actually when they stopped rushing at us, and that created opportunities and holes.”

Such was the Stormers’ superiority that their brains-trust had the luxury of pulling off a few of their slightly overworked forwards this season in the final quarter – the likes of Andries Bekker, Tiaan Liebenberg, Brok Harris and Francois Louw were substituted to preserve their freshness for the derby challenge of the Sharks in Durban next weekend.

“I think it was the right thing to do,” Coetzee told Sport24. “Yet again in this competition you never quite know when you’re safe so you have to (consider that).

“Still, it was important that Brok, who has been outstanding throughout this season on the tighthead side, be given a 10 or 12-minute break, and also Andries.

“We’re in a good place at this point in time. We don’t want this opportunity to slip, and we want to be able to field a fresh 22 every weekend.”

A minor inconvenience for the Stormers was their failure to bank a bonus point: it was unusual for them to go past 40 points with only three tries to show.

Asked whether they might have considered kicking some of their second-half penalties for the corners rather than at the posts, skipper Burger said: “No, not at all. I was content to keep the scoreboard ticking. Once the score gets bigger you know you might have a chance at the bonus point.

“I wasn’t keen to put the team under pressure by kicking to touch and maybe losing the lineout. They were pretty effective at stopping our drives, so we didn’t really have any options.”

*In a nice touch to mark rival captain and traditionally fierce foe Richie McCaw’s 100th Super rugby appearance, Burger confirmed he had “dropped off a bit of wine” for the ace All Blacks fetcher beforehand.

“Part of the softening process,” he quipped.

Read more on:    super 14  |  stormers  |  crusaders

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