Sweet and sour for Stormers
Johannesburg – The Stormers will be the envy of several other teams in the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament with their seven victories from eight games, but there will definitely be mixed feelings about Saturday’s 33-19 win over the Lions.
For example: The Stormers had to defend their line manfully when the Lions were still attacking late in the game and a converted try would have seen the home side draw level.
The Stormers finally turned over possession with a dominant tackle and won the ensuing scrum to momentarily relieve pressure.
What then is the problem? Well, the Lions only had 14 men on the field at that stage thanks to their captain, centre Doppies la Grange, being sin-binned for a tip-tackle in the 68th minute.
Yes, we know by now that the Stormers can defend, but there is also a tendency for them to retreat into their shells. Even the Stormers’ most dangerous attacking weapons – Gio Aplon and Juan de Jongh – fluffed their lines.
Johann Sadie put the game out of the Lions’ reach in the 79th minute after collecting a badly executed grubber from the Lions’ Dries van Schalkwyk to go and score under the posts.
The Stormers started brightly, with a huge penalty from Gary van Aswegen giving them the lead. Danie Poolman then scored his first Super Rugby try after Schalk Burger and De Jongh were stopped just before the line.
Dewaldt Duvenage took the conversion while the medical team tended to Van Aswegen, who left the field shortly afterwards with a grade two tear of his medial ligament. He will be sidelined for two to three months.
Peter Grant had also been withdrawn from the Stormers’ starting line-up during the week and the Cape side had to play with their third choice at flyhalf following the introduction of Lionel Cronjé.
Cronjé is very talented, but will have to cut unforced errors such as kick-offs that are out on the full from his game. He is nevertheless a very good attacking flyhalf and it was his cross-kick that was collected by Aplon in the build-up to Jaque Fourie’s first-half try.
Prior to that try the Lions had fought their way back to 13-16, with Burton Francis impressing at flyhalf. He first succeeded with a drop goal and then added a penalty before breaking the line to set up a try for Warren Whiteley.
Cronjé’s kicking, however, helped keep the Stormers’ noses in front and at half-time they led 23-13.
The Lions also deserve a lot of credit for keeping the pressure on the Stormers throughout. They started the second half well and Francis’s boot twice took them within seven points of the Cape side.
At times the Stormers looked uncomfortable when the Lions carried the ball or launched high kicks.
Sadie’s try came as a relief for the South African conference leaders and came soon after De Jongh had failed to apply a finish to a great attacking opportunity.
There was a minute left to go and score the fourth try, but the Stormers ended on the back foot. That won’t bother them too much because they clearly enjoy defending. Perhaps a little too much.
Stormers 33 (23) Tries: Danie Poolman, Jaque Fourie, Johann Sadie. Conversions: Dewaldt Duvenage, Lionel Cronjé (2). Penalties: Gary van Aswegen, Cronjé (3).
Lions 19 (13): Try: Warren Whiteley. Conversion: Burton Francis. Penalties: Francis (3), Drop goal: Francis.