Stormers can take baby steps to playoffs
Cape Town - This past weekend's loss to the Bulls ensured that the Stormers moved out of the playoff places for the first time this season, but a look at the remaining fixtures suggests that they should still be in the last eight come July 16.
The Stormers, in a battle with the Bulls, Lions and Sharks for three knockout places, have - on paper anyway - the easiest Super Rugby run-in of the South African contenders.
READ: 5 GAMES THAT COULD DECIDE SA'S SUPER RUGBY FATE
While local derbies of major significance await the Lions, Bulls and Sharks, the Stormers have the Cheetahs, trips away to the Force and Rebels and then a season-closing clash against the Kings left.
The trip to Australia could be a potential banana peel, but the Force do not look very threatening.
The Rebels clash stands out as the one that could trouble the Stormers, but if they manage to get through that then it could, and should, be four out of four.
Even if the Bulls win their remaining four matches - they have the Lions (h), Jaguares (a), Sunwolves (h) and Cheetahs (a) - four Stormers wins will, in all likelihood, secure them a place in the knockouts via the South African Group wildcard position at the very least.
So, for now, the Stormers still have their Super Rugby fate in their own hands.
"It’s changed drastically in the last two weeks," assistant coach Russell Winter said of the South African playoff race.
"It’s always been closely contested at the top there … there’s never been a big gap in the points.
"One week changed the whole lot for us.
"But we realise that we have to go week to week and try make sure that we are in a good position come the end of the tournament."
It all starts with the Cheetahs this Saturday.
"We just need to make sure that we’re back to our best on Saturday so that we can get a four-pointer and if it’s a bonus all the better," said Winter.
"We need to do what we can and then hopefully that log will take care of itself."
Hooker Bongi Mbonambi said the squad was still confident of making the playoffs.
"We will keep working hard for that," he said.
"Our spirits are still high and there are still a few games to go. We’re looking forward to getting the win this weekend and bettering our position on the log."
Kick-off on Saturday is at 15:00.