Cape Town – In reviewing his team's woeful 2014 Super Rugby season, Stormers coach Allister Coetzee felt a staggering injury list hampered his team's efforts to reach the playoff round.
After the weekend's defeat, Coetzee said the composition of the side that ran out against the Sharks told the story that the injury-hit Stormers had to field a B team, and this was often the case this season.
“We played against the Sharks without our entire first-choice tight five – Steven Kitshoff, Scarra Ntubeni, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth and Rhynardt Elstad,” Coetzee said.
“Many players who would have offered back-up were also injured – players like Oli Kebble, Brok Harris, Deon Fourie, De Kock Steenkamp, Jurie van Vuuren and Gerbrandt Grobler.
“In the backline we were without Jean de Villiers and Damian de Allende.”
Also absent were experienced players like Gio Aplon, Peter Grant and Louis Schreuder who had been out for a long time.
Coetzee said injuries were always a major consideration and the franchise had done its best to roll with the punches.
“I wish I could have had a say in the amount of injuries we had, but unfortunately that was out of my control.
“Every season you learn a few things and it is just tough not to be in the playoffs. For us as the Stormers, it is not good enough.”
The plethora of injuries forced Coetzee to call up untried players from the ranks of the province's Vodacom Cup squad.
“The injuries forced my hand to select young players who, subsequently, came through nicely and stuck their hands up.
“This will help to grow the future depth in the province as well.
“The fact that we turned things around – by winning four games on the trot – shows the character of the side. It shows the leadership that is here.”
The Stormers had been mindful of the workload of some of the senior players and, therefore, had released them from regular training sessions as a means of managing them.
“For any coach you have got to look at the volume that you expose your players to, and try and curb that because volume is definitely one of the big things that lead to injuries.
“I have done my best to rest and manage players like Duane Vermeulen and Jean de Villiers. it is not just about how much they play but also during the week managing the players properly.”
Even though some of the players had heavy workloads, there was always the temptation to select them week after week. Coetzee pointed to the table-topping Waratahs who sent out virtually unchanged sides each week.
“Once you build momentum in a competition, you play your best players. It is proven that if you play with the same players 75
percent of the time, you will get the right result.”
Despite the regular injury knocks, Coetzee felt the defeat suffered in Christchurch against the Crusaders, sounded the death knell for the Stormers. It was a match the Stormers could have won but for a match-winning penalty they conceded in the closing stages.
“If I have to reflect on the season, I look at the Crusaders game which I think could have turned our season around if we had won that one.”
This season, the two stand-out players at the franchise were centre Damian de Allende and flank Nizaam Carr. Injury denied De Allende picking up a deserved Springbok cap just over a month ago, while Carr was overlooked by national team coach Heyneke Meyer.
In recent weeks, Carr had strung together a few Man-of-the-Match performances and it seemed it would be only a matter of time before he received a Springbok call-up.
Of the rookies who broke into this season's Super Rugby ranks, wings Cheslin Kolbe and Kobus van Wyk, prop Allister Vermaak and lock Ruan Botha all stepped up with loads of promise for the future. – Sapa