Stormers

Erasmus wants bonus point win against Lions

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Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus was up at six o’clock on Sunday morning, plotting his side’s charge for the 2008 Super 14 semifinals.


The early rise was brought about because the statistics for the Stormers – Waratahs clash was delivered to him at the crack of dawn by the company employed by the Newlands-based outfit to compile an in-depth analysis of the match played some 12 hours earlier in Cape Town.


By the time New Zealand referee Lyndon Bray blew the final whistle at the end of the 13-all draw at Newlands on Saturday night, Erasmus wasn’t sure how to treat the outcome.


“I can’t say if we are disappointed (with the draw) because that’s a top team we played against out there. We are definitely out of our skins with joy, or full of smiles,” said Erasmus after the match.


“We definitely not down and out or on the ash heap. I think we’re still fourth on the log. I’m not quite sure but if we win our next game, which is going to helluva tough, we can still end fourth on the log. That’s not too bad.”


The Stormers coach said his immediate challenge would be to plot the way forward for next week’s game in Johannesburg.


“It’s going to be a huge challenge for us to play at altitude, coming in from sea level. The way the Lions played against the Chiefs (on Saturday), we know its going to be tough but it is in our hands.


“We know the strength of the Lions is at the breakdown.”


Erasmus wasn’t too sure whether he employed the correct tactics in the match which was played when the ‘Cape of Storms’ weather elements at its fiercest.


“There are certain tactics we tried to utilise, and perhaps they didn’t work,” said Erasmus.


“I take responsibility for that. “You can’t play (open) rugby in wet weather like this. It’s a relief (the draw) given the difficult conditions. It’s a fair result.


”I know from from my playing days that to try to play rugby in the wet at Newlands, you’ll lose. The plan was to kick, and it almost worked.


“The plan was not to keep ball in hand in the second half.”


In order to exact more momentum for his game plan Erasmus substituted his star flyhalf Peter Grant 10 minutes after the break.


“Peter Grant’s substitution after 50 minutes was purely tactical. We all know how good Tony Brown is with his tactical kicking game. He can dominate with the boot. We decided the boot was the way to go.”


Despite the trying conditions, the Stormers did not enjoy their usual supremacy at the set-pieces, especially in the scrums.


“There were scrum problems. They (the Waratahs) scrummed well. We struggled last week and this time we didn’t dominate. They put heat on us at scrum time.”


The Stormers also did not enjoy their usual high turn over rate of opposition ball in the ruck and tackling encounters.


“At the breakdowns it was a question of whether we should play or wait for the other team to make mistakes,” said Erasmus.


“It didn’t quite pan out like we would have wanted but the Waratahs have played nine of their 12 games in rain. “It seems like the rain is following them so they were pretty used to it.


“But we got a draw out of the thing and it gives us confidence if we come up against such sides in the play-offs. “As it turned out we scored two tries to one. They scored a try that we couldn’t defend.”


Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie felt his side did not drive home their advantage on the day. “I suppose we are experienced when it comes to these conditions,” said McKenzie.


“I thought we controlled possession far better in the second half, but the problem was we created pressure and didn’t get enough reward for it.”


The Stormers did not emerge unscathed from the clash which saw wing Wylie Human (ribs) and prop Brok Harris (shoulder) cry off with injuries.


“It doesn’t look like the injuries will cancel out those players for next week’s game,” said a relieved Erasmus.


After their four consecutive wins at Newlands, it was the first time that the Stormers trailed (6-5) at the break after Waratahs flyhalf Kurtley Beale struck two penalties against an unconverted try by Stormers wing Sereli Naqelevuki.


It has become customary for the Stormers to adopt a more defensive approach after the break, after had managed to establish a commanding halftime lead.


Recent halftime scores against the Brumbies (20-0), Hurricanes (10-0) and Cheetahs (24-3) reflect that pattern.


On Saturday, a lucky try by Wylie Human some 30 seconds after the restart and togther a penalty by Brown in the 63rd minute the Stormers went ahead 13-6.


At that stage the Stormers kicked into ultra-defence mode, and although they boast a wonderful Super 14 defence record, they failed to prevent the Waratahs from scoring a try through Lote Tuqiri 10 minutes from the end.


The Waratahs will be feeling hard done by because with even as much as 70% possession in the second half they only had seven points to show for their efforts.


“We had our chances to win this game,” Waratahs captain Phil Waugh said.


“Every point they scored came from our mistakes. That’s disappointing. It’s getting frustrating.”


Saturday’s draw for the Stormers has raised fears that the biggest crowd-pullers in the history of Super 14 rugby are in danger of missing out on a semifinal berth.


However many permutations there can be once next week’s final round of matches are completed the simple fact is that the Stormers must pick up a bonus point win to be certain of a semifinal slot.


Equally simple is the fact that if the Hurricanes and Waratahs triumph in their matches (with or without bonus points) and the Sharks pick up a bonus point win, they will grab the three play-off slots behind the log-leaders Crusaders, if the Stormers fail to collect a bonus point win.


The message is clear for the Stormers. A win will not necessarily mean a win-win situation. It’s the bonus point from the win that could define their 2008 season.


Sapa – Super14.com

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