A commanding physical display earned the Stormers a resounding 29-13 win against the Sharks at Newlands on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI.
We asked for intensity. We asked for physicality. And boy, did these two coastal franchises deliver.
This fixture was always going to be shaped by the battle at the set pieces and collisions. The Stormers showed the Springbok-laden Sharks scrum no respect, winning three tightheads in the first 24 minutes of the game. The hosts contained the Sharks maul on several occasions. And through the efforts of the hard-running Damian de Allende, the Cape side caused all sorts of problems for that all-Bok Sharks midfield of Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen.
Steyn and Pietersen gave as good as they got in their first Vodacom Super Rugby match since returning from Japan. Pat Lambie was influential in the first half, rounding off a good attacking movement and kicking accurately for goal. Unfortunately, the Sharks backline just never had the forward platform to challenge the Stormers defence consistently.
The opposite was true for the hosts. Demetri Catrakilis created an early opportunity when he kicked on Lwazi Mvovo, who made the grave error of letting the ball bounce. Johnny Kotze's chase was good, although he was fortunate the ball landed in his hands and he had little more to do than sprint 20m to the tryline. It was a great example of how a good kick can create a try-scoring opportunity.
Catrakilis may have missed two kicks to touch, but he was in fine form in front of goal. The Stormers forwards did the necessary, and ensured that territory was won. However, it was Catrakilis who translated that pressure into points. The Stormers flyhalf kicked the hosts to a 13-10 lead, and added two further penalties after the break to put the Cape side in a commanding match position.
It should also be noted that the Stormers were without Nic Groom for 10 minutes of that first half. The scrumhalf pulled down a Sharks maul in the 22nd minute, and was shown a yellow card for the infringement.
The Sharks went on to score after Lambie collected a neat pass by Willem Alberts. Tellingly, these were the only seven points conceded by the Stormers in Groom’s absence.
The Sharks struggled to get themselves back into the game after half-time. The Stormers continued to apply the pressure, and the decisive moment arrived when De Allende charged down an attempted clearance by Cobus Reinach, and the ball travelled backward into the Sharks' in-goal area.
The visitors then conceded a penalty try when Reinach played the ball from an offside position. The conversion by Kurt Coleman took the Stormers out to a 26-13 lead.
Steyn put in some big hits over the course of the match, and was particularly hard on Stormers fullback Cheslin Kolbe. Yet another crunching tackle on Kolbe was met with groans by the Newlands faithful, even though the hit appeared to be legal. Referee Jaco Peyper agreed with the home crowd, though, and sent Steyn to the sin bin. While it was a disappointing end for Steyn, this incident didn't cost the Sharks the game. The Stormers were already well in control at that point of the second stanza.
The win is the Stormers’ fourth in as many matches, and sees them move to the top of the combined Super Rugby log. The Sharks have now lost three of their first four games, and have much to rectify in terms of their attitude and game plan in the coming weeks..
Stormers – Tries: Johnny Kotze, penalty try. Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis, Kurt Coleman. Penalties: Catrakilis (4), Coleman.
Sharks – Try: Pat Lambie. Conversion: Lambie. Penalties: Lambie (2).
Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Scarra Ntubenii, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones.
Sharks – 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Marco Wentzel, 20 Renaldo Bothma, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 André Esterhuizen, 23 Jack Wilson.
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images