just show some crunch time bottle. That is the wish of Stormers coach Allister Coetzee ahead of his side’s Super 14 semifinal against Australian outfit the Waratahs, at Newlands on Saturday.
Coetzee remembers well that not too long ago, his vastly-improved team could not lift their game against the Sharks and they suffered an unexpected defeat in Durban.
Now he has genuine fears about what his team’s mindset will be against the 2008 Super 14 finalists, the Waratahs, who have shown vast improvement since they were subjected to a February 27-6 defeat at Newlands.
In their two most recent matches, the Waratahs have collectively scored 11 tries in two decisive victories.
The Stormers had a ‘run in the park’ against a second-string, but committed, Bulls outfit at Newlands on Saturday when they managed three tries in the first half.
It would seem the Stormers would have benefited from the outing, if only to regain their winning form after the Durban debacle, and secure a home semi-final.
Coetzee feels there is not much he can do with the players in the run-in to the match, except emphasise the point they must have their heads screwed on right, come match day.
“At this stage it’s not about how much work you put in physically, but how much you do mentally,” said Coetzee.
“We’ll have to manage our preparation this week. The players have to go out and impose themselves physically, which means they have to pitch up with physical intensity and keep up the pressure.
“We have to make sure we back our systems. It’s been working.
“Whenever we play within our systems, there’s no great individual performance but a solid team performance. That’s what we’re looking forward to seeing against the Tahs. When we keep ball in hand we really look sharp.
“We’ll leave nothing out there against the Waratahs and we know that it will be a different Waratahs side coming out here this time.
“We won’t play in a manner where we are trying to keep something back for the following week [possibly a final].”
Stormers captain Schalk Burger also sensed Saturday’s meeting with the Waratahs will pose a formidable challenge. He is the only survivor of the last Stormers team that played in a Super rugby play-off match, when the 2004 team reached the semifinals and were
defeated 27-16 by the Crusaders in Christchurch, New Zealand.
“This is a semifinal and playing a Waratahs team in good form will require us to be at our best,” said Burger.
“We had a good performance against the Waratahs earlier this season — it was pretty convincing at the time, but I think they are a much improved side since we played them.”
The only player in the Stormers ranks who knows a thing or two about playing in Super 14 play-offs is ex-Bulls winger Bryan Habana, who has two championship medals.
He feels his teammates must draw inspiration from the fans who have packed out Newlands, week in, week out.
“The whole of Cape Town has been buzzing for the last couple of weeks and we have to live off that energy,” said Habana.
“We have the skills levels and have worked hard. The foundation has been laid and now it is all about going out there and really putting our foot on the pedal and making sure we don’t just please the crowd out there, but please ourselves and use our talent.”
This will only the second time Newlands will be hosting a Super rugby semifinal. In 1999 the Stormers were roundly thrashed (33-18) by the Otago Highlanders of New Zealand.
The current Stormers backline coach Robbie Fleck, was a member of that hapless Stormers team.
And whether it is a bad omen or not, the date that day was May 22. Come Saturday, it will again be May 22. — Sapa