Stormers will go for bonus point
STORMERS captain Jean de Villiers says his team are ready, if need be, to throw off the shackles in an effort to secure a four-try bonus point against the Melbourne Rebels at Newlands tomorrow.
By the time the Stormers take to the field in the final round of pool play in the Super 15, they will know exactly where they stand in relation to the Chiefs, who top the overall standings by a single point over the Cape side.
If the Chiefs lose to the Hurricanes in Wellington this morning, then the Stormers need only a win against the Rebels to top the log. If the Chiefs win without scoring a bonus point then the Stormers will need to win and score four tries against the Rebels to secure top place.
The prize for finishing on top is a potential home final.
The Brumbies could sneak into second place if they bag five points from their match against the beleaguered Blues and the Stormers lose without earning a point.
De Villiers said that the Stormers' priority was to win the game and, if they felt that they had a suitable cushion, they would take more risks in pursuit of a four-try bonus point, if it was needed.
"I have learned in the past that your priority should be to get in front first," De Villiers said.
"If that is three points at a time or five it doesn't really matter.
"If you can get a 12- or 15-point buffer just by kicking penalties then you are in a position to take more chances and then go for the tries. It is all about building your innings and making the right calls at the right times. Maybe those 50/50 calls where we would have gone for poles, we might go for a line-out ball - but it all depends on how we go during the game."
If the Stormers don't secure a bonus point they will have the dubious distinction of being the first team in history to reach the play-offs without scoring four tries in a match in the regular season.
The Bulls and the Sharks, who play home games against the Lions and Cheetahs respectively, also have a chance to make the play-offs.
There are several play-off permutations still to be worked out but both the Sharks and Bulls have the ability to influence their own seasons. Wins with bonus points for both teams will ensure their places in the top six. If they make the play-offs, both sides could finish between fourth and sixth.
"We don't need to tell the players at this stage of the competition what is at stake," said Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, whose team has never lost to the Lions in Super rugby.
"Everyone knows that the rewards for the hard work that we have put in can be justified with a good win. We had the play-offs as our first objective for the season, but definitely not our only one."