Stormers outmuscle Sharks
Juan de Jongh (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - The Stormers bounced back from recent defeats in spectacular fashion by defeating the South African Conference log-leaders, the Sharks, 22-15 in their Vodacom Super Rugby derby at Newlands on Saturday evening, after leading 16-6 at halftime.
The outcome was a fitting reward for the Stormers, who have been desperately trying to change their image from an ultra defensive side to one with a balanced outlook.
The loss of an early line-out may have been a hint that there were problems in store for the home side, but they shook off the setback with dashing forays into Sharks territory.
The pressure they created forced the Sharks into errors, which were converted into points by Stormers fullback Joe Pietersen for a deserving 9-0 lead after 19 minutes.
Towards the halftime break, the Stormers produced several strong surges on attack but a mixture of errors and stout defence by the Sharks ensured that the visitors' defensive lines remained in tact.
On occasions when the Sharks managed to change the flow of the game, they too produced a few strong ball-in-hand bursts into the Stormers half, and there they forced two penalties, both in goalable positions, and their pivot Patrick Lambie struck both through the posts to reduce the deficit for the visitors (9-6).
The enterprise in the Stormers' playing pattern finally took its toll on the stroke of halftime when centre Juan de Jongh rounded off splendidly with two deft hand-offs before scoring next to the posts.
Pietersen added the conversion for a 16-6 halftime scoreline.
Just six minutes after the break, the Stormers secured a turn-over and flanker Michael Rhodes raced clear just 30 metres out, but was collared by the scrambling cover defence.
As the hour mark approached, neither team managed to enjoy second-half supremacy as play fluctuated between the two 32-metre lines.
Lambie and Pietersen, the place-kickers on either side, however managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over but still the 10-point gap remained on the scoreboard, which moved along from 16-6 to 19-9.
Thereafter, Stormers' tryline was briefly threatened after the Sharks driving maul was stopped just a metre away from the target but Lambie drew reward with his fourth penalty in the match (19-12).
With 12 minutes playing time left, the Stormers produced a rousing passage of play that had the Sharks under the whip for about six minutes as they ran the ball wide, at almost every opportunity.
It was highly attractive stuff from the usually dour Stormers and the highlight at that stage was their promising rolling maul which was eventually held up in the in-goal area.
Seven minutes from the end, the Sharks were penalised at a scrum, and Pietersen steered a fifth penalty through the posts to open a 10-point gap, which the Stormers defended desperately, only just, in the closing stages of the match, when Lambie earned his side a bonus with a penalty.
Try: De Jongh
Pens: Pietersen 5
Pens: Lambie 5
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subsititutes: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Gerbrandt Grobler, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Cheslin Kolbe.
The Sharks: 15 Francois Steyn, 14 Sean Robinson, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Ryan Kankowski, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subsititutes: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Riaan Viljoen, 22 Odwa Ndungane.