Siya Kolisi’s decision to take draw against Crusaders praised
Whitelock says captain’s call was ‘smart’
Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock fully endorsed the decision by Stormers counterpart Siya Kolisi to go for the draw with the final penalty of a pulsating match between the sides at Newlands on Saturday.
With the Crusaders leading 19-16 and only a minute on the clock‚ Australian referee Nic Berry awarded a penalty to the home side for a high tackle by the Crusaders.
The penalty mark was almost directly in front of the posts.
The Stormers were guaranteed one log point for losing by seven or fewer and a draw would have only meant two log points. If they kicked to touch and scored a try from a lineout it would have meant four log points.
But on a night where they only breached the Crusaders line once — in the seventh minute when Kolisi ran on to a beautiful‚ flat pass from flyhalf Josh Stander to score — there were no guarantees a try would follow from a kick to touch.
Landing the penalty and earning a draw was as close to a sure thing as there could be.
Replacement flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis stepped up and duly slotted the penalty‚ which ended a seven-match losing sequence against the Crusaders since 2011. It was also the first draw between the sides in their 22nd meeting.
“It was very smart by them to go for the shot at goal at the end there‚” Whitelock said. “If you consider where they sit on their conference‚ for them to guarantee two points from this game was smart.
“Going to the corner they would be rolling the dice. Credit to them and they got two log points from it. A draw is always a weird feeling and you could sense it in the crowd afterwards too.”
On a weekend when all the teams in the SA Conference that played‚ won‚ the Stormers lost ground on their rivals despite two points against the best team in the competition.
The Jaguares’ famous win over the Hurricanes coupled with the Bulls’ first win in Australasia for three years and the Lions’ home win over the Highlanders‚ leaves the Stormers six points adrift of the top-placed Jaguares.
With two games in Australia to come and two more back in Buenos Aires‚ the Jaguares are odds-on favourites to win the SA Conference.
It seems the four SA teams in the conference will be chasing a wildcard play-off place and in that context the Stormers are still in a healthy position. They have three home fixtures in their final four outings and their one away game is against the Lions at Ellis Park‚ which will be crucial.
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck also felt Kolisi’s decision to secure two log points was the right one under the circumstances.
“That decision and the result sits very well with me‚” Fleck said. “That’s the best team in the competition and for us to get something out of the game is a huge positive for us.
“The effort the boys put in‚ especially on defence‚ shows the character of this team and they deserved something from it.
“I credit Siya with that decision because if we had walked away from the game with a loss it would have done damage to the squad’s morale. We are six points adrift of the top of the conference and making the play-offs is still in our hands.”
Kolisi was thinking clearly when he made the call and had a bigger picture in mind.
“One hundred percent I was thinking about the confidence of the group in the long run by getting something from this game‚” Kolisi said. “If we lost after playing so well‚ it would have been a blow. But I was still hoping there would be some time after the kick went over to go again.”