The Stormers beat the Cheetahs 31-24 at Newlands on Saturday to snap their three-game winless streak. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Stormers came into this clash desperate for any sort of victory. The previous match at Newlands culminated in a win for the Waratahs. The Cape side then went on to draw with the Sunwolves and lose to the Bulls. The latter defeat saw them relinquishing the lead in the Africa 1 conference race.
The Stormers’ desperation for victory shaped their tactics in the first half. They endeavoured to play the majority of the game deep in Cheetahs territory. While they blew several chances to score, they did enough to lead 14-9 at half-time.
The Cheetahs did well to disrupt and stifle the Stormers’ attacking momentum. Lood de Jager and Francois Uys competed well at the lineout. The visitors did brilliantly to stop the Stormers’ rolling maul from 5m out on several occasions.
The importance of this clash was summed up in one particular incident in the 30th minute. While play continued on the other side of the field, De Jager and opposite number Eben Etzebeth engaged in a fierce grappling match. The battle between the two Springbok locks was eventually ended by Etzebeth, who hurled De Jager to the turf.
The deadlock was broken in the 36th minute. A linebreak by Siya Kolisi provided the hosts with the momentum. The Cheetahs defence got across to stop the movement, but could not prevent the Stormers from scoring from the subsequent phase. The ball was shifted to debutant Daniel du Plessis, who bumped off Sergeal Petersen and then reached for the tryline with two defenders clinging to his back.
The Stormers scored their second try shortly after the break to take control of the contest. The Cheetahs’ assault on the hosts’ tryline was beautifully read by Leolin Zas, who intercepted a pass and then ran 80m to score. Jean-Luc du Plessis added the extras to stretch the Cape side’s lead to 11 points.
But the Cheetahs refused to lie down. Uzar Cassiem and Petersen scored tries for the visitors, who trailed by just five points as the game moved into the fourth quarter.
Sikhumbuzo Notshe produced an inspired kick infield to set up the Stormers’ third try in the 64th minute. Kobus van Wyk chased the kick well, and then showed exceptional skill to collect the loose ball and place it on the tryline.
There were some nervous moments for the Stormers as the Cheetahs attempted to snatch a late win. Replacement flyhalf Niel Marais kicked a penalty for the visitors. Du Plessis missed a relatively easy attempt at the other end of the field. Fortunately for the Stormers, Marais sent his subsequent attempt wide.
The Cheetahs won a penalty in the 75th minute, and opted to kick for touch. This time, it was the turn of the Stormers lineout to repel the Cheetahs maul, and force the turnover.
The Cheetahs enjoyed two further attempts to maul over the tryline from close range. On both occasions, however, they conceded possession, and the chance to claim a draw was lost.
Stormers – Tries: Daniel du Plessis, Leolin Zas, Kobus van Wyk. Conversions: Jean-Luc du Plessis (2). Penalties: Du Plessis (4).
Cheetahs – Tries: Paul Schoeman, Sergeal Petersen. Conversion: Fred Zeilinga. Penalties: Zeilinga (3), Niel Marais.
Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Daniel du Plessis, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe (c), 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble. Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Johnny Kotze.
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Henco Venter, 20 Neill Jordaan, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Nico Lee.
Photo: Thinus Maritz/Gallo Images