Stormers edge Sharks by one point in URC thriller
The Sharks came close to getting the win but fell short against the Stormers.
Damian Willemse of the Stormers during their United Rugby Championship win over the Sharks at Cape Town Stadium. Picture: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images
The Stormers maintained their stranglehold over their South African rivals in the United Rugby Championship with a pragmatic 16-15 win over the Sharks at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night.
The Western Cape side last tasted defeat against their local foes in 2021; John Dobson’s team always comes alive in local derbies, especially in front of their fans who packed the Green Point Stadium at the weekend.
Their latest win over the Sharks took them to sixth place on the URC table with 26 points.
Meanwhile, John Plumtree’s woes at the Sharks continue. Their chances of making the playoffs are looking slim as they have now lost seven matches this term.
The Sharks were dealt an early blow before the match when Eben Etzebeth pulled out of the starting line-up, and Corne Rahl replaced him. The Springbok international joined the coaching staff in the coach’s box.
The visitors from Durban didn’t struggle to settle into the game without their big enforcer. Instead, they dominated possession in the opening 10 minutes, being competitive in the collisions.
After that period, the Stormers went on an attacking onslaught but the Sharks’ defence was resolute. However, it folded when the Stormers recycled the ball among the forwards and backs, and that phase was finished off by lock Adre Smith with a converted try after 15 minutes.
The Stormers had the ascendency, winning penalties and going for the corner. Their lineouts were good, with centurion Scarra Ntubeni nailing his throws.
The away side tried to get back in the game but lacked composure when they had momentum, allowing the Stormers to get out of pressure moments.
The game became an arm wrestle and the scrum battle took over. The Stormers had the upper hand in that aspect.
Loosehead Sti Sithole was dominant as they won a scrum penalty in a kickable position and Manie Libbok converted the kick.
Close to half-time, Sharks winger Werner Kok made an unconverted score in the corner when the ball found him on the wing after it moved through flyhalf Curwin Bosch and fullback Aphelele Fassi. This meant the Stormer went into the break leading 10-5.
The second stanza started with the Stormers on the front foot, putting pressure on the breakdowns. Their work-rate resulted in them winning two penalties, and Libbok slotted one over to extend his side’s advantage to eight points.
The Stormers maintained their dominance in the scrum and their scrummaging got the crowd pumped up.
The Sharks kept themselves in the game with a penalty from Bosch, which gave them much-needed confidence. The Durban side had been more neat with the ball and changed their attack variations.
They took the lead in the 58th minute when Rahl went over the white line for a converted try. The Stormers immediately hit back with another Libbok penalty. The score was 16-15 to the Stormers after the hour mark.
Tension in the air
The two teams battled for territorial dominance but whenever they made progress a handling error would set them back. The Stormers were asking questions and forcing the Sharks to make errors and get penalties.
They continuously went for the corner as they were searching for a try from the maul. They thought they had it when Andre-Hugo Venter powered over the line but it was ruled out after they were adjudged for double banking.
With the game on the line, the tension increased slightly in the final five minutes. Both teams gave it their best but the Stormers were in control thanks to their scrum dominance. They used their game management experience to seal the win.
Stormers: Tries – Adre Smith Conversion– Manie Libbok; Penalties – Libbok (3)
Sharks: Tries – Werner Kok, Corne Rahl; Conversion – Curwin Bosch; Penalty – Bosch