Cape Town – Stormers coach Allister Coetzee declared that his side's match-winning effort against the animated Lions was “one of the best wins of the season” after his flu-hit squad held out bravely at Newlands on Saturday.
Hours before kick-off, fullback Joe Pietersen, wing Bryan Habana and utility back Burton Francis were withdrawn due to illness, and then wing Danie Poolman, who originally did not feature in the match-day squad, was a first-half casualty. He was replaced by centre Marcel Brache, who was also destined to be a spectator.
Brache's entry forced the Stormers to move their captain, Jean de Villiers, out to the wing, and Coetzee admitted afterwards that it was far from ideal for the skipper to be so far removed from the action.
“It might not have been a crowd-pleasing performance but this was one of the best wins of the season in the light of what happened with the squad before the match,” Coetzee said.
“Last night Bryan was still on a drip and three players were down with flu.
“It was an important win against a Lions side that a lot of people write off. But this Lions side was efficient and put us under pressure.
“This performance shows that we are improving as a team.”
Coetzee said Poolman picked up a hamstring strain and was likely to be out for 10 days, but lock Andries Bekker came through his comeback match without complications.
The Lions' stand-in coach, Johann Ackermann, believed the match was there for the taking but inexperience allowed the Stormers to land the knock-out blow in the final seven minutes.
“At 13-10 with nine minutes left, we were definitely still in the game,” Ackermann said.
“It came down to a lack of experience and there were signs of nerves.
“We will have to learn to focus on what must be done.
“Our scrum went very well, despite changes to the pack before the game.”
Lions skipper Josh Strauss said frustration had crept into the ranks as the match wore on, lashing out at referee Mark Lawrence.
“Some of those calls I thought were not fair, and when it came at crucial times, it cost us,” Strauss said.
“It was very frustrating coping with some of Mark Lawrence's calls.
“We're a side that play for each other and we've played together in the Currie Cup.
“We need a little bit of luck to convert those close games to wins.” – Sapa