The advantage of not having to travel seems to count for more – especially as far as the South African teams are concerned.
While the Hurricanes have basically wrapped up top spot, the Stormers still dream of finishing second and securing their first home semi-final since 2012. But it’s hard to see it becoming a reality, as they seem reluctant to pursue four-try bonus points.
The Sydney side, leaders in the Australian Conference, beat the Crusaders with a bonus point at the weekend to move three points above the third-placed Stormers in the overall standings with three rounds to play.
The Stormers wasted a golden opportunity to pull a point back when they failed to secure a bonus point in their 31-15 win over the Rebels on Saturday at Newlands. The win was again built on a destructive scrum, and they had about 35 minutes to score one more try after wing Dillyn Leyds completed his brace with the team’s third touchdown in the 45th minute.
The Stormers had a huge chance to go for a fourth try in the 65th minute when they were 28-15 up. But, awarded a penalty in between the 10-metre line and the 22 of the Rebels, captain Duane Vermeulen asked flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis to go for the three points. The Cape side also had other bonus points opportunities, but this was a pivotal moment where you have to try to back yourself to cross the line.
When Vermeulen was asked to explain his decision, and who was involved in making the call, coach Allister Coetzee stepped in to defend his captain’s choice to stretch their lead with another three points, as they wanted to make the game safe.
“Look, that’s why there is a captain. You trust his judgement. The big thing is we wanted to make the game safe. That is what was important, because there will always be a chance to go for a bonus point again. I felt it was the right decision.”
Vermeulen gave a similar response: “In Super Rugby teams are so evenly matched. You can’t just have a seven-point lead and go for touch. This season our line-outs haven’t been great. So, if it’s in the middle of the field, and you have a good kicker, then you take the points.”
If the Lions beat the Waratahs at home on Saturday, they will set up a big clash with the Stormers in two weeks to battle it out for the SA Conference. The Stormers, though, have a game in hand on the Lions and hold all the aces.
Original source: Stormers playing it too safe?