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Allister: Crusaders too good
Cape Town - Although the 29-10 loss by the Stormers in the Super Rugby semi-finals at the hands of the Crusaders will not sit well with their loyal supporters, it was clear on Saturday night that their opponents were simply in a class of their own.
Speaking after the loss, Stormers coach Allister Coetzee admitted the men from Christchurch were more sound in their tactical decision-making and were rewarded for their clinical execution at the set phases.
"We were beaten by a better team tonight, they scrummed really well and were highly competitive at the breakdown and we made elementary mistakes which cost us," said Coetzee.
The Stormers' mentor said the experience they had gained in this tough competition would be of great value in the future.
"We will take all the criticism on the chin, but in my books it was still a very good season.
"We are at that tipping point and it is important that we keep believing in our systems and structures and I think it is important that we get quality players in terms of our depth," said Coetzee.
The late withdrawal of scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage - the halfback failed a late fitness test on an ankle injury - was also not used as an excuse.
Coetzee praised Louis Schreuder for making the step up in Duvenage's absence and lauded his team for making it to the play-offs despite losing several key players - in key positions - throughout the season.
During the contest, the Stormers also lost skipper Schalk Burger to a thumb injury.
He was replaced by Schalk Brits and it was left to vice-captain Jean de Villiers to explain where things went wrong after the match.
"Credit to them (Crusaders), but then again rugby is all about momentum and if we had taken the right choices early on then it could have been a different ball game," said de Villiers.
"Rugby is like a game of chess and we made a few wrong moves early on and from there it went pear shaped."
De Villiers echoed his coach's views on the positive strides the team has made this season as far as increasing the experience base is concerned.
"The fact that we blooded basically a whole team of guys under the age of 23 this season is fantastic for us as a union and what the academy has achieved is fantastic for Western Province and Stormers rugby.
"We are on the right track if we are playing in play-offs every single year and in every competition is good for us - although we need to start winning."
And while De Villiers agreed that the extra week's rest will be well received by the Springbok players in the squad, he described the loss as heartbreaking when considering how much hard work had been put into the season.
"I've not thought about that (the week's rest) yet. At this stage I'm still heartbroken about the loss," he said.
Over the past two years, the Stormers' players have been involved in Super Rugby and Currie Cup finals with the semi-final against the Crusaders encapsulating yet another season where they came within inches of winning some much needed silverware.
De Villiers said all they can do is to keep trying.
"If we had the answer or solution to why we are not doing it (winning trophies) we wouldn't be sitting here and talking about it.
"We need to keep chipping away at it and try and keep the faith and work hard to try and achieve that."