Reds coach betting on Stormers, Crusaders

2012-07-27 00:00

EWEN McKenzie, the coach of the champion Reds, believes that the Stormers and the Crusaders will prevail in this weekend’s Super Rugby semi-finals and will meet in the final at Newlands on August 4.

The Crusaders travel to Hamilton to meet the Chiefs in Hamilton this morning (SA time), while the Stormers are at home to the Sharks in Cape Town tomorrow evening.

McKenzie took the Reds to the Super Rugby title last year with a win over the Crusaders in the final.

He said his money was on the Crusaders winning on the road today. “The Chiefs have struggled in their past six games, of which they have won just three and conceded more points than they have scored. The extra week can also play mind games.”

McKenzie said the Sharks, who beat his Reds team in the quarters in Brisbane last Saturday, had a “travel schedule from hell”.

“The Sharks do have the game to challenge the Stormers’ defence. However, I believe the Sharks will tire and the Stormers will outlast them.”

McKenzie, reflecting on the Reds’ loss to the Sharks in the Sydney Morning Herald, said the match was an example “of how statistics aren’t always a useful measure of performance”.

“Despite the loss, we had a dominant 65% possession advantage. That translated into us having superior attacking territory statistics as we spent 17 minutes in the Sharks half, compared with their five. We also won the penalty count and had double the number of phases.” But, McKenzie added ruthfully, “you are rightfully only measured by the points you score”.

Certainly, the rival coaches at Newlands tomorrow, the Sharks’ John Plumtree and Allister Coetzee (Stormers), will not be taking much notice of the statistics.

The Stormers, in 16 games of league play, scored only 28 tries, the lowest success rate of the 15 teams (the last-placed Lions scored 30 tries). But the Stormers, with their superbly organised defence, also conceded the fewest tries (21). The Sharks scored 47 tries and leaked 31.

Coetzee is sensitive to criticisms that his Stormers side have played boring rugby, adding that the top placing vindicated the approach.

“It’s not a bad effort for the dullest side in the tournament,” he remarked to the media this week. “I think it’s also significant that we are playing this game at Newlands, where we haven’t lost this year. It’s a special record and we’d like to keep it that way.”

Captain Jean de Villiers said the Stormers were stronger now than they were when they lost at home to the Crusaders in last year’s semi-final. “We are in a better space than we were last year.”

De Villiers said the Stormers were not looking ahead to a possible home final and used the example of Australian golfer Adam Scott, who fluffed the final four holes at the British Open to open the door for Ernie Els, as an example of how nothing in sport can be taken for granted.

“You can prepare, but it comes down to whether you can put it together on the day,” said De Villiers.

The Stormers, he said, would be bumping a quality, in-form Sharks team. “They went to Brisbane and beat the champs at home. That says a lot about them …”

De Villiers said a Sharks win at Newlands and then in the final in New Zealand a week later would be a remarkable achievement.

“It would be one of the most incredible feats in the history of Super Rugby,’ said De Villiers. “And they’re a team that can do it.”

Stormers in 2012 – Played 16, Won 14, Lost 2

350 PF (12th overall), 254 PA (1st overall), 28 tries (15th overall)

Sharks in 2012 – Played 16, Won 10, Lost 6

436 PF (5th overall), 348 PA (5th overall), 47 tries (3rd equal)

Semi-finals:

Today - Chiefs v Crusaders, Hamilton

(9.35 am SA time)

Tomorrow – Stormers vs Sharks, Cape Town

(5.05 pm).

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