Reniel Hugo was the unlikely hero as the Sharks came from an 11-point deficit to claim a 33-30 victory over the Stormers in the Rainbow Cup in Cape Town on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
Gameflow: The Stormers will be asking themselves how they tossed this one away, especially as they were cruising in the first 15 minutes, opening up a 17-0 lead thanks two excellently worked tries by Herschel Jantjies and Rikus Pretorius. However, they will only have themselves to blame, especially as their ill-discipline cost them at key moments, with both Seabelo Senatla and debutant Willie Engelbrecht seeing red. Even with the assistance of the new red-card law, which allows a player to be replaced after 20 minutes, the Stormers had few answers to a Sharks side that drastically improved after half time.
Going into the break trailing by 11 points, the Sharks came out flying in the second half. It was Reniel Hugo, in his first competitive match for the Sharks, who made himself an unlikely hero. The lanky lock scored three quick-fire tries as the visitors were suddenly 10 points up.
The Stormers gave themselves hope of a late comeback when Edwill van der Merwe acrobatically tipped an Abner van Reenen kick to allow Damian Willemse to score. The Stormers trailed by three with six minutes left on the clock. A successful captain’s challenge had a penalty initially awarded to the Sharks being turned around. The Stormers had a late opportunity to win the match, but Ruhan Nel knocked the ball on when trying to ground it in the final play of the game.
Cards a plenty: South African fans were given their first taste of the new law trials in place for the Rainbow Cup. Seabelo Senatla was red-carded in the first half after mistiming his challenge on Aphelele Fassi and taking the Sharks fullback out in the air. Stormers coach John Dobson was probably thankful that the red-card law trial was in place as Dan du Plessis effectively replaced Senatla after 20 minutes. Willie Engelbrecht was then red-carded early in the second half after his second dangerous tackle. The Stormers gave themselves a late chance through the use of another law trial: the captain’s challenge.
Du Toit return successful: Saturday’s match marked Pieter-Steph du Toit’s first game in over a year, after he had successfully recovered from a career-threatening leg injury and subsequent knock to the nose. Thankfully, from a Springbok point of view, he completed the full 80 minutes for the Stormers with no issues. The 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year got through a mountain of work as well, putting in some big tackles, winning lineouts and making clean after clean at the breakdown. It bodes well for his British & Irish Lions series participation.
Flyhalf concern: It looks like Damian Willemse may be back at flyhalf sooner than he anticipated, as Kade Wolhuter, who had a bright game, twisted his knee in a tackle in the second half. It was an unfortunate way for the game to end for Wolhuter, as he kicked accurately at goal and picked up a try assist. It presents Dobson with an interesting conundrum, especially when Warrick Gelant makes his return from injury.
Stormers –15 Damian Willemse, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Kade Wolhuter, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Nama Xaba, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff (c).
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Evan Roos, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Abner van Reenen, 23 Dan du Plessis.
Sharks – 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Fez Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 JJ van der Mescht, 20 Phepsi Buthelezi, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Werner Kok.
Photo: Gallo Images