Stormers have crossed the Rubicon but can they press on?
Cape side upbeat after going toe-to-toe with Crusaders
The Stormers might have left it too late to do anything more than secure a Super Rugby play-off wild card‚ but last Saturday’s draw against defending champions Crusaders felt like a significant moment.
In a match that looked more intense than 90% of Super Rugby matches‚ the Stormers went toe-to-toe with one of the greatest club sides in history. They did not win‚ but few would disagree that they deserved something from the match.
Now they have four matches left‚ three at home‚ and a six-point deficit to the top sides in the SA conference‚ the Bulls and Jaguares.
It means winning the conference is out of their hands — they need the Jaguares and others above them to stumble.
The Lions and Sharks, two teams the Stormers still have to play, are ahead of the Western Cape side, so the Stormers can still control edging ahead of them.
Under-pressure coach Robbie Fleck described Saturday’s 19-19 draw as a “Rubicon moment”‚ referencing when Julius Caesar and his army crossed the Rubicon river near Rome to take control of the city. Once his army went across that threshold‚ there was no turning back.
“It might have been a Rubicon moment for us‚ in terms of the rest of the campaign‚” Fleck said. “If we can play like this against the best team in the world‚ then we can beat most of the teams that come our way in the next couple of weeks.
“The effort that the boys put in — especially on defence — showed the character of the group and the fight that is still in the side.
“As I said‚ these guys [Crusaders] are a quality team and they did show it at various stages in the game.
“I felt that tactically we were very smart‚ we put them under pressure‚ we put their lineout under pressure and our kicking game was spot-on.”
The Stormers face the Highlanders at Newlands this weekend. The south islanders are another team chasing a play-off berth via the wild-card route. The Stormers have 26 log points and the Highlanders 29.
The Cape side will probably go into the match without the services of the Springbok duo of centre Damian de Allende and hooker Bongi Mbonambi. The pair suffered leg injuries against the Crusaders.
“The Highlanders are a little different to the Crusaders, but they also have similarities‚” Stormers assistant coach Dawie Snyman said. “The NZ sides tend to have the same style of play‚ the same defensive systems and the same approach to the breakdowns.
“Off the ball they work really hard. They have honest forwards who are not shy to work hard‚ so we will have to outwork them.”