Catrakilis could be the deciding factor


The growing excitement about the prospect of a semi-final in Cape Town has overlooked the possibility that the Stormers could still finish eighth, and miss the play-offs altogether.

Losses against the Lions and then the Sharks in Durban next week would probably bring an abrupt end to a promising Stormers campaign and Catrakilis, who has signed up to play for Jake White at Montpellier, is one of several stalwarts who have updated their passports for an imminent move to club rugby abroad.

Many Cape fans are counting the sleeps until the 25-year-old St John’s College prodigy files through international departures, but that is perhaps because they judge Catrakilison attacking verve rather than efficiency. He is second overall this season with 154 points-scored, which accounts for almost half of his team’s 342 points, and the Stormers have gone 10-3 in his 13 starts.

Kurt Coleman might well win a popularity poll, but the Stormers alternate flyhalf has converted just 15 of 24 kicks at goal for a 63 percent strike-rate. Catrakilis has hit the mark with 52 of 62 attempts (90%) and has missed a total of two kicks at goal in the last 10 matches.

One more win will wrap up the Stormers’ third conference title in five years, and success against the Lions and Sharks is very likely to book a home semi-final.

Catrakilis is a two-time Currie Cup winner and he will be eager to bid farewell to Cape Town as a core member of the Stormers’ first championship team.

He played a primary role for the Newlands faithful in last year’s Currie Cup final, converting five of five kicks to beat Marnitz Boshoff in a shootout as Western Province held on for a 19-16 victory against the Lions.

“If you’re very closely matched, it will always come down to maybe a drop goal or an accurate goal-kicking performance and that’s what happened in that Currie Cup final,” said Stormers coach Allister Coetzee. “Demetri was much more accurate than his counterpart.”

Catrakilis was again perfect from the tee when the Stormers travelled to Ellis Park in round three, complementing a Siya Kolisi try with five penalties in a 22-19 win. But on that occasion the win was not a result of him getting the better of his counterpart, as Boshoff had been replaced by Elton Jantjies and the latter didn’t miss in five attempts at the uprights.

Though Jantjies skewed three kicks last week, he nailed three conversions and two penalties as the Lions scalped the Waratahs for the first time in Super Rugby history. The Lions playmaker will go into Saturday’s match with 150 points on the season, which is good for third place overall.

Jantjies must engineer a victory in what is the Lions’ final league match – they have a bye next week – and the importance of his role, and that of Catrakilis, will be heightened by inclement weather.

The Stormers may have had to resort to flippers and snorkels to get through any on-field activities during training today, and the probability is high that sheets of rain will lash Newlands on Saturday.

Catrakilis will want to avoid another close call by keeping the scoreboard ticking over, and hopefully extend his Stormers career to four more wins this season. - Cape Argus

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