Attrition was the buzzword as the Stormers scored a dramatic last-minute 19-17 win in a tense, hugely physical but error-ridden Super Rugby win over a tiring Lions side at Newlands on Saturday.
Reserve scrumhalf Hershel Jantjies scored the hosts’ only try in the 86th minute as referee Egon Seconds awarded one penalty after the other.
While the 22-year-old showed excellent awareness in bursting through the middle from the final scrum, Lions fans and neutrals will probably bemoan some questionable officiating in the 77th minute, when arbiter Egon Seconds and his assistant seemingly ignored a legitimate steal by Malcolm Marx.
It was tough on the men from Ellis Park, who had flank Marnus Schoeman yellow-carded with four minutes of regulation time left and managed to keep the Capetonians out long enough for him to actually return to the field.
Nonetheless, the Stormers deserve praise for showing guts in the face of adversity, but the quality of rugby on show in general was very disappointing.
Who was the star in this match?
While a superb display by Marx put “pressure” on him, Lions flanker Kwagga Smith was his industrial self and was everywhere, showcasing his incredibly high work rate. Apart from scoring the Lions first try, he was a handful on the ground, slowing Stormers ball and generally creating havoc at the breakdowns.
Key moments and themes
- The Lions landed the first two blows of the game with Smith scoring in the sixth minute and captain Warren Whiteley muscling over for scored the second in the 20th minute. Both were from close range, illustrating that the Lions are willing to switch between being gritty and attacking.
- The Stormers were their own worst enemies in the first half as poor discipline dogged them. Hooker Bongi Mbonambi was twice blown up for foul play on Lions scrumhalf Nic Groom, while prop Ali Vermaak received a yellow card for coming in on the side off the ruck.
- Those incidents and a lead of 14-3 gave the Lions the illusion of a comfortable lead, but their handling and decision-making eventually started to put pressure on them as Stormers wing SP Marais’ unerring boot kept the hosts in the game.
- Whereas the Stormers belatedly showed the value of leadership in the closing moments, the Lions will be wary of how they seemed to lack direction once Whiteley cried off with a shoulder complaint. Should he be confined to the sidelines, Swys de Bruin and co will have to carefully pick a replacement.
Stormers – Try: Hershel Jantjies. Conversion: SP Marais. Penalties: Marais (4)
Lions – Tries: Kwagga Smith, Warren Whiteley. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalty: Jantjies.