Stormers put off-field drama behind them
PRE-SEASON SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Stormers managed to put the ongoing stand-off involving their coaching staff behind them for an impressive win.
The Cape Town-based franchise beat the Bulls 33-28 in a pulsating #SuperSunday fixture.
There were all sorts of goings-on at Cape Town Stadium when Thor met Captain America on Sunday afternoon. There was a massive party for over 50 000 people. There was dancing, singing and lots of laughter. There was fancy dress and a Mexican wave. There were many happy faces and lots of colours. There were interviews and cyclists in special shirts. There was a huge support for anti-cancer charities, and there were young survivors there to prove success.
And there was rugby.
The players wore fancy dress as well as they represented characters in Marvel Comics.
In this match Thor represented the Stormers and Captain America the Bulls of Pretoria, and there was rugby all right, and thunderous Thor just got home against the soldier.
There certainly was rugby.
The referees did not wear fancy dress and there was no partying in the application of the laws of the game. There was rugby, serious and intense, as it has ever been when Cape Town and Pretoria meet on the rugby field. There was no doubting the commitment of any of the 52 players that took part in the match, from the time when Josh Stander kicked off and Damian Willemse kicked out.
The Stormers had the better of the first half and at one stage they led 21-7 and then 26-21 at half-time.
They had golden opportunities early in the match when penalties handed them attacking line-outs, but the Bulls’ captain, Lood de Jager, and then big Duane Vermeulen stole their throw-ins, and when the Stormers did get a try, it was started by a Bulls’ bungle.
The Bulls had the ball near the half-way line but prop Lizo Gqoboka dropped the ball and hooker Scarra Ntubeni grabbed the ball and charged ahead. He had Seabelo Senatla near at hand and gave it to the flying wing who raced 41 metres to score. SP Marais converted and it was 7-0 after 11 minutes.
That score did not last long.
The Bulls kicked off. Dan Kriel caught the ball and charged and then, suddenly, Jaco Coetzee broke downfield. He gave to Jano Vermaak who raced ahead till he was pulled to ground. From the ground he flicked the ball to Josh Stander who scored. 14-0 after 12 minutes.
One could have imagined a rout when Marais intercepted Burger Odendaal’s pass and ran 62 metres to score under the posts. 21-0 after 18 minutes.
This match did not have rout stamped on it. The Bulls do not get routed. They attacked and, on advantage from a fallen scrum, Handré Pollard knifed through to scope. 21-7 and just 20 minutes had passed. It was time for a water break.
After Juarno Augustus, the strong Stormers No.8 was held up over the line, Vermeulen, inside his own half, started a counterattack after a meaningless kick. He gave to Duncan Matthews on the right. The speedy wing got past a diving Marais and then played inside to Ivan van Zyl and the scrumhalf had a clear run to the posts. 21-14 – 35 points in 28 minutes.
Just three minutes later, Pollard received the ball from a tackle and attempted a box kick, but Augustus charged the ball down, grabbed it and ran 23 metres to score well in. Stander missed the conversion and the Stormers led 26-14.
Back came the Bulls. A penalty gave them a five-metre line-out and they bashed. Dylan Sage, the Blitzbok grandson of the great Doug Hopwood, was close and then fullback Warrick Gelant broke through Willemse’s tackle to score. 26-21.
It was the Stormers, turn to attack. They bashed at the line and found the Bulls’ defence adamant. Dan Kriel was close and Salman Moerat was over under the posts but he lost the ball in De Jager’s tackle.
The Bulls were first to score in the second half. After Johnny Kotze had gone close on the left wing, Paul Schoeman forced his way over for a try which Manie Libbok converted, and, just four minutes into the half, the Bulls led 28-26. Half an hour later that was still the score.
Both sides had chances to score, especially the Stormers but they found the Bulls tough and determined defenders when they bashed at close quarters. Ali Vermaak lost the ball at the line when a try seemed certain, but then Matthews and Schoeman were close after a deft grubber by Libbok had set up an attack. A break by Embrose Papier was most promising but eventually the wall broke.
The Stormers were bashing at the line. They opted for two five-metre scrums at penalties and from the second they bashed again till captain Chris van Zyl came in at an angle and scored at the posts. Willemse converted. 33-28 to the Stormers with six minutes to play.
The Bulls were penalised twice at tackles in those last six minutes and from the second one Willemse tapped and kicked out to end the match.
The two teams meet again at Loftus Versfeld in the first round of Super Rugby. Loftus Versfeld would be a great place to be.
The Bulls suffered two injury blows.
First Jesse Kriel went off for aq head injury assessment early in the match and did not return. This was after a collision with Scarra Ntubeni.
Near the end, Duncan Mathhews, who had had an excellent match, was helped off with what looked like a serious knee injury.
Man of the Match. The rolling substitutions made the choice hard. The outstanding player in the first half was undoubtedly Lood de Jager of the line-out steals, the handling skills that set up Pollard’s try and the tackle that prevented a try. But he played only half a match. In the end the award went to Stormers’ hooker Scarra Ntubeni for his line-breaks and rugged tackling.
Tries: Senatla, Stander, Marais, Augustus, Van Zyl
Cons: Marais 3, Willemse
Tries: Pollard, Van Zyl, Gelant, Schoeman
Cons: Pollard 3, Libbok
* Don’t miss this week’s podcast, as the @rugby365com team is joined by former @Springboks flyhalf @APetoors10. They look at how players can prepare for ‘Life after rugby’ and what the pitfalls are.
Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 SP Marais, 10 Joshua Stander, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 Chris van Zyl (captain), 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Michael Kumbirai, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Replacements -from: Chad Solomon, Corne Fourie, Wilco Louw, Ernst van Rhyn, John Schickerling, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Kobus van Dyk, Herschel Jantjies, Damian Willemse, Sergeal Petersen, Dan du Plessis.
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Duncan Matthews, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Lood de Jager (captain), 4 Eli Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: Corniel Els, Simphiwe Matanzina, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Ruan Nortje, Ruan Steenkamp, Thembelani Bholi, Embrose Papier, Manie Libbok, Dylan Sage, Johnny Kotze, Divan Rossouw.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Divan Uys
TMO: Christie du Preez