Stormers handled key moments better
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie believes the Stormers came away with the win on Saturday because they handled the key moments better.
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie believes there were critical moments in the last quarter hour of their game against the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday and the home team came away with the win because they handled those key moments better.
The Stormers beat their visitors from Queensland 20-15, with each team goaling five penalties and the difference between the teams being the try scored by Stormers captain Jean de Villiers - the only try in the match.
In a tight game of few opportunities, McKenzie believed one critical moment had sealed the home team's victory.
However, his Reds team remain in the running to be amongst the top six on the points table to contest the 'finals'.
The Reds had recognised that it was always going to be a tough encounter on Saturday, especially after the difficult tour from which the Stormers had just returned.
"We threw a lot at them. They've had a difficult time. We knew they'd be emotional about playing at home again for the first time." said McKenzie.
"We had some ideas," he explained. "We took them on at their strength. We recognised that they obviously tackle well and they've got a good defensive system.
"We wanted to mix it up - run at them and then kick it behind them.
"Looking back, there were probably more opportunities to kick the ball behind them at times to keep them second-guessing, but the game washed down to level-pegging. It really was tight the whole way and there were probably a couple of critical moments in the last 10 or 15 minutes and that was it.
"They handled those moments slightly better than we did.
"There weren't a lot of opportunities. We had a couple but we turned the ball over at key moments. We got in front but then we messed up the kick-off so they got back in front."
Not being able to secure their own line-out ball had been a disappointment.
"We lost three line-outs in a row in the middle of the game after winning 100 percent the week before. But there's not masses wrong.
"The Stormers are a quality side and they've got a lot of pride in what they do and they did enough and we didn't quite do enough."
McKenzie was complimentary about the Stormers' execution in setting up De Villiers's try.
"Their try was really well executed. It was a perfect kick.
"How we defended it ...it was a matter of metres either way. It was perfectly kicked and caught, and that was it. It came out of the blue. And that was it. They tried once more and we covered it easily, but there was one moment and that was it for them.
"We had a couple of moments; we were up there and we took our shots at goal. We recognised it wasn't going to be a high-scoring game so we took our shots at goal and kept in touch.
"We were waiting for our moment and it didn't come. Or it might have come and we missed it, simple as that."
Asked where the Reds stand now in regard to being contenders to make the top six of the competition to reach the play-offs, the coach commented: "You just keep going. You'd like to run your own race, but now you sit in the territory where you take an interest in what happens in other games.
"There are still a lot of teams to play each other and you start taking more interest in that. Now you're more interested to see who wins and loses. It's not a great situation but we're better off than a lot of other teams.
"It'll be interesting to see in the next couple of weeks whether the table gets any gap in it." he added.
It was possible that a gap could appear in the points table with "the derby games, particularly in South Africa and New Zealand, as they knock each other around".
"I had a figure in my head about what you need to get to get into the finals but it might be slightly lower, I don't know. I think 57 points will get you to the finals. It doesn't get you one or two but it gets you into finals contention so we need to keep plugging away.
"It might be slightly lower than that the way the tournament has panned out this year, but we know that every year there's still a whole bunch of teams still in the hunt in the last round and no doubt it'll be the same this year.
"We're still alive but we'd like to be going a bit better than we are at the moment."
The Reds fly out of Cape Town on Sunday to travel home to Australia where they take on the Melbourne Rebels next Saturday, with the Rebels having scored a momentous first ever victory over the Waratahs on Friday.
"We've just dust ourselves off; we've got to fly back and play the Rebels, who are in form," McKenzie said.
"That's the way the comp is; anyone can beat anyone on the day. I know coaches say that when you lose but it's actually the truth.
There's no game where you sit there and think it's going to be an easy four points or an easy five points.
"You never think that; you've got to be on guard and take care of the key moments. You don't get a lot, especially against the Stormers. They don't give you much and if you get a line break or something like that, you've got to finish it off."
Reds captain James Horwill agreed with comments that the Stormers line-out had worked effectively with Tiaan Liebenberg throwing in and Eben Etzebeth playing as their No.5 lock.
"Etzebeth is a Test lock and Liebenberg has played a lot of Super Rugby. We tried to put a bit of pressure there but I guess we were a bit haphazard so to speak in not putting enough pressure there early on and we let them get into the game.
"Their line-out functioned really well, and defensively they put us under pressure and stole a couple of key line-outs due to a couple of our errors."
Horwill emphasised just how tough a venue Newlands is for visiting teams.
"Newlands is a tough place to play for opposing teams," said the 35-Test cap Wallaby. "It's never any different. Every time I've come here, it's a difficult place to win.
"Tonight was no different. We wanted to try and silence the crowd early in the game but we missed some opportunities early on and they got into it, and after their try they were in full voice and you're chasing the game a little bit from there."
Meanwhile, Wallaby utility forward Radike Samo has been issued with an off-field yellow card for contravening Law 10.4 (j) Dangerous Tackling - Lifting Tackling.
The incident occurred when Samo tackled Stormers scrumhalf Louis Schreuder in the 28th minute of the match.
Referee Jaco Peyper did act upon the incident, but upon further review of the match footage the Citing Commissioner deemed an off-field yellow card was appropriate.
By Len Kaplan