Cape Town - The Stormers avoided an ignominious record, and salvaged heaps of respect in the South African Conference, by producing what Allister Coetzee called “one of the biggest wins” in team history with a 21-19 victory over Super Rugby’s log leading Sharks at King’s Park on Saturday.
“I said in the change-room that this comes close to one of the biggest wins in the Stormers jersey,” the coach told reporters in Durban after fullback Jaco Taute landed a decisive drop goal at the death.
“I made the call to drive the lineout and win a penalty for (flyhalf) Demetri Catrakilis to kick,” Coetzee said of the moments leading up to Taute’s game-winning kick.
“But Jaco surprised himself, and the team! I’m just pleased we got this first away win for the season and it’s three on the trot, so it’s really a big one for us.”
The result follows on the heels of telling victories against the Western Force and Cheetahs in recent weeks as the Stormers have climbed out of the basement to reach the June break in 11th place overall, and third in the SA Conference.
A loss would have seen Coetzee’s team equal a single-season low by becoming the first Stormers side since 1998 not to win a single away match.
“A lot of people didn’t give us any chance,” the coach said of a match in which the Sharks were overwhelming favourites. “But we’ve been here with a patched-up team before and pulled it through.”
Coetzee was referring to the Western Province team, missing stalwarts Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger, that defied the odds to beat the Sharks in the 2012 Currie Cup final in Durban.
“It was a similar philosophy that we had in that final.”
“To hang on in the first half and up the ante in the second half, and then keep the scoreboard pressure up, and we did that,” added Coetzee.
Stand-in captain Duane Vermeulen deserves maximum credit for following through on the plan.
The adamantine No 8 pointed to the uprights whenever kickable penalties were presented to the Stormers, and his appreciation for high-percentage tactics ensured that the Sharks were simmering in a tactical slow-cooker in the fourth quarter.
“First we celebrate,” Coetzee said of his immediate plans.
“Secondly, we have a nice break, and then we get to our plan for the next four weeks going forward, and try to keep the momentum against the Bulls and Sharks when we come back.”