Coetzee poised to wield the axe

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iol spt apr28 Stormers-Cheetahs Gallo Images Stormers coach Allister Coetzee may bring out the selection axe following a frustrating and painful loss to the Cheetahs. Photo by Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee may bring out the selection axe following a “frustrating and painful” loss to the Cheetahs.

Although Coetzee did not want to discuss the performances of individual players in the past weekend’s 35-22 defeat in Bloemfontein, he seems to have lost patience with some players who are making the same mistakes every week.

So, the likes of flyhalf Peter Grant and flank Siya Kolisi could be in danger of losing their starting spots for Saturday’s clash against the Highlanders at Newlands.

Grant admitted last week that he was struggling with his game as he hasn’t been playing much rugby in Japan, and he was again guilty of missing crucial goal-kicks against the Cheetahs, slotting only two out of four. The missed conversion of Devon Williams’s try was particularly telling, as it would’ve put the Stormers within six points of the Cheetahs with 18 minutes left.

Grant also missed a penalty kick to touch, while his tactical kicking wasn’t at its best.

Replacement pivot Kurt Coleman brought much more urgency to the team when he came on for Grant in the last 15 minutes, and his greater tactical repertoire should be given serious consideration by Coetzee against the Highlanders, especially as Demetri Catrakilis is out for another week at least with a broken nose.

Kolisi has been battling a shoulder complaint for a while and it seems to be affecting his usually high work-rate and physicality. Schalk Burger was much busier in the last 30 minutes and may have done enough to push for a start.

When asked if Grant should be given a break from the game, Coetzee told the Cape Times last night: “I’m really not going to discuss individual players, but it’s true that certain players are not possibly in their best form. I’m very honest and open about it – we are honest with each other and challenge each other. Don’t think we are not.

“The fact that I don’t want to discuss individual players doesn’t mean I am shying away from being open and honest with players, and confrontational. And yes, we will make changes if they need to be made. I have to look at that. We’ve got to make sure we select the right side for the opposition that we are facing and the way we want to play.

“The most disappointing part was the way we started – it was for 15 minutes that we had a 10-0 lead, and between 25-30 minutes, every little bit of dominance we had just vanished.

“For some reason, it started at the charge-down (of Jaco Taute’s kick), and then it was just compounded by little mistakes again and again. It’s frustrating and a painful process. We know where we want to go to, we know what we want to do. If you look at last week and how we started well, and this week it was 10 minutes. The second half is what we want to look like and play like.”

For once it was the Stormers’ defence that let them down, although there were again a number of aimless kicks downfield that were just a waste of possession. Coetzee was adamant that the Cape side were not going back to their old defensive-minded gameplan.

“Sometimes you kick and they kick out, and the set-piece is where you want it to be, then that isn’t a bad kick. But if you don’t win the lineout, then it’s a problem. The kicks in the middle of the field is definitely not the plan,” he said.

“The others, we did catch the guy ball-and-all, but we were ineffective at the breakdown. At how many kicks that were contestable did we make the tackle? They just had one of their cleaners there and we did nothing to them.

“That’s why I’m saying it’s a painful process because the players understand that we want to go to ball-in-hand, but then the ball gets kicked away when it’s on. And when it should be kicked – that’s the decision-making that is not there yet.”

Prop Steven Kitshoff and hooker Deon Fourie may also come under pressure for their places. Kitshoff was penalised a number of times by referee Craig Joubert in the scrums, and while Oli Kebble lost the ball in contact often when he came on, Coetzee has said he wants to give him a start soon.

Scarra Ntubeni is over his calf injury and available to play, according to Coetzee, and Sailosi Tagicakibau (sternum) is also fit again. Cheslin Kolbe and Tiaan Liebenberg are not yet ready.

Fourie’s lineout throwing was again problematic after a good showing against the Lions, and apart from one turnover, he didn’t match the impact of Cheetahs fetcher Heinrich Brüssow at the breakdowns.

With Tagicakibau back, Devon Williams may lose out, but that would be unfair to the young man, who made a positive contribution almost every time he touched the ball.

He nearly created a try out of nothing with his electric pace and grubber ahead, where Juan de Jongh was held up over the line. He showed his speed later to finish off a superb backline move ignited by Jean de Villiers’s break and a great offload by Jaco Taute.

Meanwhile, French newspaper L’équipe reported yesterday that Deon Fourie has agreed terms to join Lyon after the Currie Cup. But WP chief executive Rob Wagner and Coetzee said yesterday that they were not aware of such a move.

Fixtures (SA times)

Friday

Blues v Reds (9.35am), Rebels v Sharks (11.40am).

Saturday

Crusaders v Brumbies (6.35am), Chiefs v Lions (9.35am), Waratahs v Hurricanes (11.40am), Stormers v Highlanders (3pm), Bulls v Cheetahs (5.05pm).

Bye: Force.

Standings

P W D L F A Pts

Sharks 9 7 0 2 243 155 31

Brumbies 9 7 0 2 240 184 30

Hurricanes 9 5 0 4 267 224 26

Force 9 6 0 3 207 197 27

Chiefs 9 4 2 3 229 219 25

Waratahs 9 5 0 4 210 166 24

Highlanders 8 5 0 3 218 202 24

Crusaders 8 5 0 3 197 169 22

Blues 9 4 0 5 234 250 20

Bulls 10 3 1 6 206 224 20

Lions 9 4 0 5 179 219 16

Rebels 8 3 0 5 169 198 16

Reds 9 3 0 6 207 247 16

Cheetahs 10 2 1 7 256 344 14

Stormers 9 2 0 7 145 209 10 - Cape Times


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