The Stormers scored four tries in the last 20 minutes of the game to seal a stunning 42-37 come-from-behind win over the Pumas in Nelspruit on Friday.
The Stormers trailed by 23 with 18 minutes remaining in this clash, but after playing poorly for the majority of the encounter they somehow found an extra gear to change the outcome of the game in their favour, with Neethling Coetzee, Bongi Mbonambi, Leolin Zas and Warrick Gelant all crossing the line for crucial tries.
The hosts’ ambitious playing style paid off big time as they cut the Stormers’ defence shreds at will for the majority of the first hour; while the visitors returned the favour in the final quarter, to sink the Pumas.
The primary focus will be on the Stormers performance and the result, but it Pumas centre Wayne van der Bank who deserves credit for his superb display. Van der Bank caused the Stormers all sorts of problems on attack, bagging himself a try, two try-assists and a few linebreaks; while also coming up with a couple of big defensive plays when his team was on the back-foot.
The Stormers will be grateful for the result, but not pleased in the slightest about their overall performance. There were just too many handling mistakes and unforced errors, easily – too easily – gifting possession back to the Pumas.
The Stormers’ big-name players in particular went missing when the occasion demanded they step up. Man for man, they were simply outmuscled and outplayed by the Pumas, but fortunately for the visitors their reinforcements came on and made a big difference.
After slotting an early penalty, the Pumas were guilty of gift wrapping a try-scoring opportunity for the opposition and the Stormers are too good a team not to take them up on their offer. From a kick off, Herschel Jantjies chargeed down Devon Williams’ clearance kick and the ball fell into the willing hands of Rikus Pretorius who dove over.
But then the Pumas scored 20 unanswered points, including tries from Neil Maritz and Jeandré Rudolph, for a 23-7 scoreline. Jantjies would go over to close the deficit, but the Pumas’ reply was instant as Van der Bank finished off a brilliant try to extend the Pumas’ advantage.
The Stormers went close on the stroke of half-time, but it all came to nothing as they conceded a penalty and the Pumas went into the break unscathed.
Soon after the restart, Rudolph had a brain freeze as he shoved Jantjies into the advertising boards after the whistle had gone and received a yellow card for his effort. But despite the man-over advantage, the Stormers failed to score and instead conceded yet another try as Maritz finished perfectly in the corner after taking a brilliant pass from Van der Bank.
Nine times out of 10, a team leading 37-14 would have the staying power to close the game out, but not this time. The Stormers upped their intensity and urgency at just the right time to come away with a smash-and-grab win for the ages.
Pumas – Tries: Neil Maritz (2), Jeandre Rudolph, Wayne van der Bank. Conversions: Eddie Fouche (2), Neil Marais (2). Penalties: Fouche (3).
Stormers – Tries: Rikus Pretorius, Herschel Jantjies, Neethling Coetzee, Bongi Mbonambi, Leolin Zas, Warrick Gelant. Conversions: Tim Swiel (6).
Pumas – 15 Devon Williams, 14 Etienne Taljaard, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Wayne van der Bank, 11 Neil Maritz, 10 Eddie Fouche, 9 Ginter Smuts, 8 Jeandré Rudolph, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Pieter Jansen van Vuren (c), 4 Darrien Landsburg, 3 Ruan Kramer, 2 AJ le Roux, 1 Morgan Naude.
Subs: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Liam Hendricks, 18 Heath Backhouse, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Dian Badenhorst, 21 Neil Marais, 22 Ali Mgijima, 23 Ig Prinsloo.
Stormers – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Leon Lyons.
Subs: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Nama Xaba, 21 Jaco Coetzee, 22 Godlen Masimla, 23 Michal Haznar, 24 Tim Swiel, 25 Tristan Leyds.
Photo: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images