Joe Pietersen scored a 77th-minute try to boost the Sharks to a 18-13 win against the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI.
While the game was short on skill, it was high on drama. Ultimately, it was the Sharks who played the bigger moments better, over the course of the game and in those crucial last five minutes.
Late in the game, JP Pietersen shrugged off the intentions of several Stormers defenders and surged upfield. He found Joe Pietersen in support, and fed his flyhalf at the appropriate moment.
Cheslin Kolbe was quick enough to catch Pietersen, but not good enough to prevent the Sharks No 10 from scoring the try. The TMO, Marius Jonker, confirmed the score and the Sharks fans among the 31,000-strong crowd celebrated as if the win was a certainty.
It was not. Three minutes remained on the stadium clock, enough time for the Stormers to score a try. The hosts won a penalty deep in Sharks territory, and then set the lineout.
It was here that the Sharks defence stood up. They did well to stop the Stormers rolling maul. They prevented the Stormers from building any momentum in the ensuing phases.
Schalk Burger tried his best to put Sikhumbuzo Notshe through a hole, but the ball was lost forward and referee Mike Fraser called an end to the game. Fittingly, the Sharks defence had the final say.
The contest at Newlands did not witness many searing linebreaks or neat interchanges on attack. What the game did deliver in spades was brutal physicality. The battle at the gainline was colossal, and for the most part, defence held sway.
Marcell Coetzee put in another big performance at the breakdown, and was responsible for several important turnovers. The Sharks, as a collective, did well to shut the Stormers down.
The Stormers attack was too lateral. For long periods, they hammered into the black and white wall without making a dent. In the 28th minute, however, Cheslin Kolbe produced an exceptional kick over the defence to set up Leolin Zas for the game’s first try.
Zas did well to reach the ball and snatch it before it crossed the touchline. The winger was fortunate that on that particular occasion the Sharks defence did not compete for the bouncing ball. Odwa Ndugane and Willie le Roux both got across, but failed to clean up.
The Stormers went to the break with a 10-3 lead. They looked to have weathered the early assault by the Sharks. Flyhalf Kurt Coleman was kicking well at that point, and it seemed as if the Cape side may well move up a gear and bank the result.
But it was the Sharks who made the first big play in the second stanza. Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach sniped through the Stormers defence, and reached for the tryline. The crowd cheered when the ball appeared to bobble forward and the Stormers cleared their lines.
However, Fraser asked TMO Jonker to have a closer look at the incident. The footage showed Stormers flank Siya Kolisi kicking the ball out of Reinach’s hands before the scrumhalf could place it over the line. The decision was taken to award a penalty try to the Sharks and send Kolisi to the the sin bin.
The Stormers showed their defensive mettle during the period of sanction. They withstood a fierce assault by the Sharks, and there were several off-the-ball scuffles as the visitors attempted to unsettle the hosts.
In the 61st minute, Joe Pietersen kicked a penalty from inside his own half to edge his team into the lead. The Sharks controlled territory thereafter, and looked favourites to claim the victory.
A mistake on defence in the 75th minute saw the Sharks conceding a costly penalty. And Coleman, just as he’d done in the previous match against the Cheetahs in Bloemtontein, showed good temperament to sink a penalty and level the scores.
Unfortunately, the Stormers defence faltered at the crucial moment. JP Pietersen made the defining linebreak, and then found his namesake in support. Thereafter, the Sharks defence did enough to secure the win.
Stormers – Try: Leolin Zas. Conversion: Kurt Coleman. Penalties: Coleman (2).
Sharks – Tries: Penalty try, Joe Pietersen. Conversion: Pietersen. Penalties: Pietersen (2).
Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (c), 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe (c), 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Huw Jones.
Sharks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Beast Mtawarira (c).
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Philip van der Walt, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Garth April, 23 S’bura Sithole.
Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images