Cape Town 19.05.12 Joe Pietersen (stormers) scores the first try in the game between the Stormers and the Waratahs at Newlands Stadium. picture : neil baynes

Zelim Nel

THE STORMERS dispatched the Waratahs in slippery conditions at Newlands on Saturday and will now crack their knuckles in preparation for back-to-back road games against their fiercest SA conference rivals.

In years gone by, the Stormers would arrive at this stage of the competition with a highlight reel of exhilarating tries, but rueful of a number of close-fought losses.

But Allister Coetzee’s team pride themselves on winning, by any means possible. It’s an approach justified by the fact that Saturday’s win catapulted the Stormers back into pole position on the Super Rugby standings with 10 wins from 11 matches.

However, Super Rugby contenders are separated by slim margins and the landscape could change dramatically if the frontrunners come up short against the Sharks and then the Bulls. These are the Stormers’ last engagements before the competition goes into a month-long siesta to accommodate the June Test window.

Coetzee and his Super Rugby counterparts will watch helplessly as their stalwarts pound into foreign foes, risking the limbs needed to sustain a campaign in the world’s toughest regional competition.

With 49 points, the Stormers have a two-point lead over the touring Bulls. The three-time champions square off against the New Zealand conference-leading Chiefs in their tour finale on Friday.

This represents a perfect opportunity for Coetzee’s side to land a one-two combination in the conference fight, because a win at King’s Park on Saturday could well see the Stormers head to Pretoria next week with a seven-point cushion over the Bulls, and a 13-point lead on the Sharks.

Conversely, a loss against the Sharks will open the door for the Bulls to stomp back to the top of the standings and ramp up the pressure on both sides to win next week’s Loftus Versfeld showdown.