Stormers in control of destiny
Cape Town - With about 15 minutes left, the Stormers were leading the Rebels by 13 points at Newlands on Saturday. When they won a penalty well inside the Rebels half, it seemed that a push for a fourth try and a bonus point was on.
Instead, Demetri Catrakilis slotted his fourth penalty of the night as the home side went 16 points clear. It was a decision that was bound to raise questions of a Stormers side that has only notched up two bonus points all season, but it was also a decision that indicates how closely contested Saturday's match was despite the 31-15 scoreline.
Coach Allister Coetzee, celebrating his 52nd birthday on the night, acknowledged afterwards that his side had been thinking about a bonus point, but that the win was another step in the right direction to the playoffs.
"I'm very happy with the birthday present. The four points in the pocket, on course and on track," said Coetzee.
"Obviously we did try and get the bonus point that's been eluding us but it's mission accomplished ... I think in this competition we need to win. We need to win next week and we need to win the following week after that, and that's how we've planned it."
Speaking specifically on the decision with 15 minutes remaining, Coetzee completely backed captain Duane Vermeulen's logic.
"That's why there's a captain on the field and you trust your captain's judgement. We wanted to make the game safe and we wanted to win this game. That's what's important first," said Coetzee.
"I felt it was the right decision."
Vermeulen also explained his thinking.
"In Super Rugby all the teams are so evenly matched," he said.
"We have been working on our lineouts but this season our lineouts haven't been the best so I'd rather go for the points. If it's in the middle of the field and you've got a good kicker that kicks at 80 plus percent, then you might just take the points.
"Like we said earlier this year, we first want to win and if the fourth try bonus point comes then it comes, but we're not going out there to score four tries."
With the Stormers now top of the South African conference, their fate is certainly in their own hands. A South African conference win is on the cards, but finishing second on the combined log and avoiding a playoff match is where it could get tricky.
"We stick to our approach and to our plan. I think it's not something that we look to chase. We have to make sure that we win the games and then once you're in the playoffs anything can happen, I think you've first got to get there," said Coetzee.
"We'll focus on ourselves, because we have got destiny in our own hands. We don't need any other team to help us, we know exactly what to do."
The Stormers are in action at Newlands again on Saturday, this time taking on the Cheetahs.