Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus, already sweating over the fitness of prop Brok Harris (should) and wing Wylie Human (ribs), admits his team faces a “huge challenge” when they play their final Super 14 round robin match against the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Following their 13-all draw against the Waratahs at the weekend, the Stormers are in fourth place and require a bonus-point win over a much-improved Lions outfit to stay in the play-off race.
Phil Coetzer of Rugby 365 writes that while the draw, against the Waratahs at Newlands. certainly hurt the Stormers, Erasmus said his team is not down and out.
“It [the race for a top four finish] is in our hands,” Erasmus said.
“If we win the next game – which is going to be a very tough game – and we keep the points difference the same, we still end fourth on the standings, which in a first year as a group coming together is not too bad.
“There’s many permutations that can happen – maybe we can end third, maybe even second. However, it’s a relatively successful season.”
But the trip to Ellis Park, to face the Lions, looms large – a must-win game for Erasmus’s team.
“We now have to go to Johannesburg and play the Lions at altitude,” said Erasmus of his team – who played their last five games in the home comforts of their Newlands stadium.
“They [the Lions] settled in, even though they had a bit of jet lag – you could see that in the last 10 to 15 minutes [of their 33-27 against the Chiefs].
“It will be tough, but it is in our hands to see how far we can go in the competition,” the Stormers coach added.
Erasmus felt the Lions will pose a huge threat to his team at the breakdown, which could cause problems for their counterattacking game.
“Certain teams’ strengths compliment other teams’ weaknesses,” Erasmus said, adding “The strength of the Lions is the breakdown and how much they compete at the breakdown. The strength of the Chiefs is turnover ball, and the Chiefs didn’t get a lot because the Lions are awesome at the breakdown.
“For us it is a huge challenge with how the Lions performed [against the Chiefs at the weekend] and also earlier in the season.”
Both Erasmus and captain Jean de Villiers said that while there was a measure of disappointment in not getting a win against the Waratahs, they can take heart from the fact that they were competitive against one of the competition’s top teams.
“We’re not jumping out of our skins [with the 13-all draw], but we knew it would be tough and the conditions didn’t help either. It was probably a fair result,” the coach said.
He admitted his team would have learnt from holding out against a powerful attacking team like the Waratahs, should they reach the play-offs.
“If we make it into the play-offs and this is the teams we play against, obviously it gives you confidence,” he said of the fact that the Stormers now know they can compete against the best.
“This team [Waratahs] is third on the standings and if you get to the play-offs these are the kind of teams you’ll play.
“Obviously we’re not used to the wet weather and they are pretty experienced in it [having played eight of their games in the rain this season] and we’ll take a little bit of heart out of that.
“We’re confident that we will be in with a chance if we play a team like that.
“I spoke to Les Kiss [the Waratahs defence coach] and he feels the same. Although you don’t get all the points [on the standings] that you want, the confidence you take out of these games is the same as getting the points.”Tweet