The Stormers were happy to scrape a 17-15 win deep into overtime despite a poor performance in their United Rugby Championship (URC) semifinal against Ulster at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Despite the home side getting off to a strong start with two early unconverted tries, the visitors fought back to lead 15-10 at the break.
It was then a scoreless second 40 minutes, only for the Stormers to be awarded a number of penalties, while there were also a few scrum resets, leading to Warrick Gelant going over for the equalising try in the 84th minute and Manie Libbok nailing the touchline conversion to seal the win.
What made the feat even more impressive was that the Stormers managed to do it a man down, after they lost lock Adre Smith to a red card in the 71st minute.
“It was a really frustrating performance. I thought our discipline was poor and just in terms of how we didn’t stick to our plans with certain types of kicks we were going to make,” said Stormers coach John Dobson.
“So it was a poor performance, we dropped a lot of ball. It wasn’t a great performance. But the heart to comeback and dominate the back 12-14 minutes with 14-men against a team like Ulster was very special.”
Big red card
Smith’s red card was for an alleged eye gouge on an Ulster player during a ruck, with the TMO adjudging that his fingers had made contact with an opponent’s eyes, which saw him sent off, and he will now miss the final against the Bulls next weekend.
“I think it’s a tough one on Adre. The law is the law but I don’t think there was any intentional foul play from his side,” admitted Stormers captain Steven Kitshoff.
“But that last 10 minutes we showed brilliant character. The guys realised what’s at stake and somehow got the energy and motivation to actually play for an extra 15 minutes with 14 guys. So I was extremely proud.”
Had the Libbok missed the tough conversion attempt to win the game the match would have gone to extra time, with Kitshoff relieved that didn’t happen.
“The last 10 minutes, even with 14 guys we had Ulster under a lot of pressure and we camped in their 22m for long period’s time,” explained Kitshoff.
“I think with 14 guys you are at a disadvantage and the steam tends to run out quickly, but I think this team had enough character to go the extra 20 minutes with 14 guys. I am just happy that we didn’t have to go all the way.”
The Stormers and Bulls now take centre stage in a grand URC finale in Cape Town next weekend, after an incredible inaugural season for South African sides in the competition.