Pietersen show sends Stormers packing
What a marvellous game of rugby! There was just so much to it as two excellent sides went hammer and tongs, intense from the first whistle to the last, with skill and heroic endeavour. It was engrossing.
The Sharks probably deserved to win. They were intense about what they were doing. They defended like Trojans, they won the 50-50 ball and they outscrummed the Stormers, a rare feat. They were clearly well prepared and highly motivated.
Everything that happened in the match seemed to happen at breakneck speed, and it lasted the full 80 minutes.
There were 31 372 spectators at Newlands, fewer than there were for the Bulls game but this in fact was a better game of rugby – disappointing to lose, but wonderful to watch and it was over in a flash.
And the winning score came like a bolt from the blue. just when things looked harmless and settled, there was JP Pietersen cutting the Stormers to ribbons with the one great run of the match. One careless kick, one poor chase, two poor tackle attempts and the match was won/lost. It happened in a flash.
The Stormers scored first when Daniel du Preez was penalised for one of those armless tackles at the shins of Eben Etzebeth, sometimes called a grasscutter and then, three minutes later, Joe Pietersen levelled the scores when Etzebeth was penalised at a tackle. Three-all after 19 minutes. Tied up, but in fact the Stormers were having the better of the game. They were the ones playing wide and doing so at speed, but the Sharks stood their ground and fought back. The try, when it came, was a surprise.
The Stormers were in the Sharks' half and going left when fullback Cheslin Kolbe chipped to his left. It seemed to be going too far. The ball was going to bounce out. Willie le Roux was covering but there was big, 20-year-old Leolin Zas racing down the left wing, his left hand up to the ball bouncing high. He managed to get it in front of Le Roux's nose and in a flash he was over for a try which Coleman converted. 10-3 after 29 minutes. And that was the half-time score.
In one incident before half-time Nizaam Carr won a turnover at a tackle and gave to Schalk Burger about 10m outside the Stormers 22. Burger kicked down to Willie le Roux who returned the kick. The upshot was a line-out to the Sharks inside the Stormers' 22 and they attacked. That was not a good kick but when Joe Pietersen kicked a high diagonal from left to right, Odwa Ndungane caught it. That was a good kick if you believe that a kick should be judged by where and when you next get the ball.
In the second half there was another example of a poor kick when Zas ran down the Stormers' left and chipped. The Sharks countered down their left with speed and vigour. The Stormers were penalised at a tackle about 12 metres from their line. Cobus Reinach tapped and charged at the line. He was stopped but the Sharks were hot on the attack and then Reinach ran at a diagonal towards the goal post. Tackled by Coleman, Reinach stretched for the post's padding but the ball was dislodged from his grasp and Jano Vermaak cleared.
This led to a TMO examination in which it was clear that Siya Kolisi's left boot had made contact with the ball, dislodging it. It has long been a serious infringement to kick the ball from the grasp of a player stretching in a tackle to score a try, and this has been stressed recently.
The upshot was a penalty try, which also meant that Kolisi was off to the sin bin. During his absence the Sharks did not score but after his return Burger was penalised at a tackle and Pietersen goaled. 13-10 to the Sharks after 60 minutes.
The Sharks were on top until André Esterhuizen lifted Burger up in a tackle and dumped him. The Sharks were penalised and Coleman goaled from the Sharks' 10-metre line. 13-13 with six minutes to play.
Coleman then kicked downfield from with in his 22 and angled to the right. JP Pietersen caught the ball just inside his own half and, after a quiet game, burst into life racing downfield, past Huw Jones, handing off Nick Groom, and, confronted by Coleman, he passed to Joe Pietersen – Pietersen to Pietersen – who raced for the line, managing to get the ball down in Kolbe's tackle.
It was a pity that the match had to end.
Man of the Match: Marcell Coetzee, the captain who epitomised everything that was good about hsi team in the game – strong in carrying the ball, strong and determined in the tackle, brave and efficient at the breakdown – a great team man.
For the Stormers:
Pens: Coleman 2
For the Sharks:
Tries: Penalty try, Joe Pietersen
Con: Joe Pietersen
Pens: Joe Pietersen 2
Yellow card: Siya Kolisi (Stormers, 46 – professional foul, kicking the ball out of a player's hand)
Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (co-captain), 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Siyamthanda Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe (co-captain), 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi , 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Huw Jones.
Sharks : 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Tendai Mtawarira (captain).
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Hyron Andrew, 20 Philip van der Walt, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Garth April, 23 Sibusiso Sithole.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)