By Greg Stutchbury
WELLINGTON, July 15 (Reuters) – Two of the Super Rugby title
favourites revealed the pressure of the looming playoffs by
lurching to victories over lower-ranked sides they should have
destroyed in the final round of matches on Saturday.
The Stormers and Canterbury Crusaders struggled to keep
their feet on the throats of the Melbourne Rebels and Western
Force. Both were forced to withstand second-half fightbacks
before finally achieving their wins.
The Stormers’ victory and Waikato Chiefs loss to the
Wellington Hurricanes ensured they topped the table, and while
they failed to excite the crowds — managing just two bonus
points all season — they showed how to win games by taking
their opportunities and stifling their opposition.
“In playoffs it’s about winning and playing the percentages
and for the entire season it has always been about winning for
us,” Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said. “We are comfortable
with the way we play and wont make changes now.
“You don’t need bonus points in the semi-finals.”
The Stormers and Chiefs both have a bye in the first round
of playoffs next week, with the New Zealand side suffering a
case of the yips in their final two weeks. They lost a match of
test intensity to the Crusaders in the penultimate round before
succumbingto the Hurricanes on Friday.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie managed to at least crack a smile
at the post-match media conference in Wellington, but he was
frustrated at the way his side had finished after leading the
competition for much of the season.
The Chiefs would need to work on their option-taking in
attack after blowing “six or seven” potential tries against the
Hurricanes and try to be less predictable when they did have the
ball, Rennie said.