Eben awakens dozy Newlands … and Stormers
Rob Houwing - Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Until
Eben Etzebeth’s arrival into the fray with 26 minutes of play officially left
on the clock at that point, Newlands had been an ominously subdued place on
One of the
smallest and hitherto most muted crowds in recent memory for a first Super
Rugby match of the season at the decaying venue had turned out to witness the
visit of the Lions, South Africa’s leading team for three years.
And when the
gargantuan Springbok lock did finally leave the “splinters”, the Stormers were
playing second fiddle, as had been pretty much the case from the start.
entry sparked the biggest, most optimistic roar of the balmy evening … and the
big enforcer did not disappoint, so clearly pepping up all around him as the
Capetonians somehow snatched victory a full five minutes after the siren
through reserve scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies’s vital little dart for a try at
the base of a post.
tweeted a day before that he was relishing “the privilege of playing for the
Stormers again … it’s been almost two years”.
player widely anticipated to quit the fold for Toulon after the 2019 campaign
has suffered an awful jinx when it comes to injuries hugely curtailing his
Super Rugby involvement over the years, whereas Test rugby has been rather
plainer sailing for him.
slightly belated personal start to the season was far from flawless – a
hallmark bedevilling many team-mates as the Stormers still look a long, long
way short of a title-aspirant outfit – he got stuck in physically with
instinctive relish and certainly played a key role in engineering more of a
front-foot feel to the hosts’ cause; it teed up their frenzied closing 10
minutes or so of hammering away at the usually unbending Lions defence.
his repeated, typically bashing carries toward the end sucked in visiting
players as he emulated another seasoned Bok powerhouse in the home ranks,
Pieter-Steph du Toit, who had earlier worked industriously on that front from
the blindside flank berth.
will feel more than a little unlucky to have let this one slip right at the
death; they had been the better side for much of the imperfect, stop-start
contest and were hamstrung also by losing skipper Warren Whiteley to a shoulder
problem just before halftime.
hang-in-there Stormers proved they do have a pulse even if their “corpse” –
that was what they had looked like at Loftus a week earlier – still has a reasonably
rancid look and feel.
skills, rhythm and continuity perspective, an awful lot of improvement is
required if they are to challenge either for the overall title or conference
Of the three
South African franchises in action on local soil on Saturday, the Sharks earlier
looked the most polished by some distance, earning a bonus-point 26-7 victory
over the Blues in Durban and looking a particularly slick all-round force in
the first half when they did most of the damage.
They have a
maximum haul of 10 points and this is their best two-game start to a Super
Rugby campaign since the 2016 season, when they had beaten the Kings and
Next on the
agenda for Robert du Preez’s charges is the weekend’s now tantalising home
derby against the Stormers; it will be a bit of a “Super Saturday” in this
country as the Lions earlier tackle the Bulls in a Highveld grudge game at
Emirates Airline Park.
Next weekend’s fixtures (home teams
first, all kick-offs SA time):
Hurricanes v Brumbies, 08:35; Rebels v Highlanders, 10:45. Saturday: Chiefs v
Sunwolves, 08:35; Reds v Crusaders, 10:45; Lions v Bulls, 15:05; Sharks v
Stormers, 17:15; Jaguares v Blues, 23:40. Bye: Waratahs.
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