Coetzee: We can rest players now
Cape Town - With the South African conference wrapped up, but a home semi-final unlikely, Stormers coach Coetzee will in all probability rest some of his key players against the Sharks on Saturday.
The Stormers drew 19-19 with the Lions at Newlands on Saturday to fall two points behind the Waratahs, who host the Reds this weekend.
"I think second place is a bit of a tough one now," Coetzee said after Saturday's fiery derby.
"I’ve got a good opportunity to do that (rest players), and a good opportunity to build a capacity in the squad. We know there’s a quarter-final, we’re going to get an overseas team here (at Newlands) and we can prepare for that.
"We still want to go up, definitely, and select our best possible side against the Sharks and make sure that we perform well. But it is also an opportunity to rest certain players who are in a way over-reaching and give them a bit of a break before the quarters."
According to SARU's resting policy Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Eben Etzebeth and Frans Malherbe are all due another week off before the playoffs. Vermeulen is out injured, but the other three are likely to be the first given a rest.
Coetzee added that he was extremely pleased with his side's performance this season, especially after they had been written off by the media at the beginning of the campaign.
"I’m very proud of that and very pleased about that (the conference win). That is the first objective. I’ve said all year through that the way to get to the playoffs is to win your conference," said the coach.
"And the reason that I’m really happy is that we did it with one week to spare.
"You all tipped the Bulls and the Sharks to win it, and we’ve got one week to spare. It’s really satisfactory."
There was no shame in drawing to the Lions, said Coetzee, and while second place would have been a great result the conference win is nothing to be sniffed at.
"We all know that the Lions are really a team that has played continuously well throughout the season and they came with everything they had," he said.
"They threw the kitchen sink in tonight and the way we’ve defended has shown the character of this side.
"We’re unhappy about the draw. But that takes nothing away from the way we’ve played, the way we’ve attacked the way we’ve defended and the character of the side.
"So if you want to downplay it, it’s fine with me, but I’m telling you now from a coach’s point of view that this team has performed very well - and especially a team that has been given no chance in this competition."
The Stormers are also likely to be without flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis for the trip to Durban as he continues to recover from a concussion that saw him leave the field in the first half against the Lions.