Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – The Stormers are virtually at the point of
“Mission Impossible” in Super Rugby 2013.
Friday’s gut-wrenching 18-17 defeat to the Blues at Albany saw
them slip to a near-irretrievable position of five losses from nine fixtures.
They did pick up a losing bonus point -- which gives them a
not-to-be-sneezed-at five points from a possible 10 on their Australasian tour
thus far -- but many pundits will be ready to consider them genuine goners if
they suffer another setback at the hands of the Waratahs next weekend.
VIDEO: Blues v Stormers highlightsGALLERY: Stormers v Blues
Worryingly for their fans, the Stormers have been doing
things in twos all season, whether it is sequences of losses or wins, so it
could be argued that they are due for a second defeat in succession then.
Slightly in their favour is that the Sydney-based outfit
will be returning through time zones from South Africa, and that there is an
eight-day turnaround to the clash which will be welcomed after the Stormers,
never short of spirit, took the ball desperately through some 25 phases after
the siren to attempt to pull the Blues game from the fire.
But “favours” are clearly what the Capetonians are going to
require more and more if they are to somehow retain an interest in cracking the
playoffs this year ... the dice is increasingly loaded against them.
If you employ the formula that 11 wins are historically needed
to absolutely guarantee a spot in the finals series under the now
three-year-old conference system, then Jean de Villiers’s outfit have to bag
victories in each of their remaining seven ordinary-season starts.
It is true that in some instances 10 can be enough for
qualification, and this season has been particularly tightly-contested thus
far, so that option may stay on the table for them – particularly if they can
keep banking bonus points as often as possible, although that is not exactly
their forte when it comes to the four-try kind.
But the big squeeze is certainly on, and it will have come as
only limited consolation for Allister Coetzee and company to learn that former
All Blacks and Lions coach John Mitchell said in the SuperSport studio after
the Albany tussle: “The Stormers were very unlucky not to win.”
They did enough in various respects to complete that task but
a chronic error count throughout, plus maddeningly dubious option-taking at
times, ultimately cost them dearly.
Seasoned skipper De Villiers, who must be nearing
over-exposure by now, produced probably his most explosive performance of the
year in midfield – earning two tries and some rich praise from the New Zealand
television commentators – but he would probably have preferred personal
ineptitude on the night and his charges pulling off this one.
The Stormers making it a hat-trick of SA conference wins
this year looks a decidedly dim prospect, with their best bet appearing to be
sneaking into a wildcard berth for a change.
And if they are to yet pull off the miracle of seven
victories on the trot, it will require them going one better than in either
2011 or 2012, when they were able to produce six in succession each time before
being tripped up.
Inconsistent throughout this campaign, how are they suddenly
going to develop into a ceaselessly winning machine?
They’ll have to consider that a new and mighty challenge ...
fixtures: Waratahs (a), Rebels (a), Reds (h), Kings (h), Cheetahs (h), Kings
(a), Bulls (h).
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