The Stormers opened their post-lockdown rugby account with a stirring 34-21 win over the Lions in their pre-season friendly at Loftus on Saturday.
While it wasn’t a blowout victory like the Bulls’ triumph over the Sharks earlier in the day, this performance from the Stormers was equally impressive, if not more so considering the utter dominance of the Cape side’s forwards wielded at the set pieces.
The main storyline was the actual match and how the teams would hold up in their first hit-out since the break in play back in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But this particular story was also filled with subplots. There was the flyhalf battle between Elton Jantjies and Damian Willemse, who are both auditioning for the No 10 Bok role in the injury-enforced absence of Handre Pollard. Then there was the clash in midfield between Stormers centre pair Dan du Plessis and Rikus Pretorius and Lions duo Wandisile Simelane and Burger Odendaal as well as the spicy loose-trio battle.
In the end, though, the Lions’ effort was just not enough in the face of the Stormers’ fierce forward onslaught. The class of the Stormers’ forward arsenal was on full display from start to finish as they bullied the Lions into submission at the scrum, in the lineout, at the breakdown and even in open play.
Be that as it may, Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen and indeed even Springbok boss Jacques Nienaber, will be happy about Jantjies’ solid performance despite playing behind a struggling pack.
The Lions opened the scoring as early as the fifth minute when they managed to secure ball possession at the scrum despite retreating at the set piece. Standing at first receiver, Jantjies executed the perfect kick-pass to wing Courtnall Skosan, who plucked the ball out of the air to finish expertly in the corner.
But with the dominant set piece as their cornerstone, the Stormers easily took control of the contest. John Dobson’s men scored 27 unanswered points. After Willemse got the Stormers on the scoreboard with a penalty, Dan du Plessis scored from a rehearsed lineout move. As if relinquishing their lead wasn’t bad enough, the Lions were reduced to 14 men when Marvin Orie was sent to the sin bin for an illegal infringement. While the lock was out of action, the Stormers piled on the misery with tries from Scarra Ntubeni and Siya Kolisi, with the latter’s touchdown coming well into first-half stoppage time.
And they started the second half like they ended the first, with a brilliant try. This time it came from Gelant, who spotted two Lions front rowers in defence and danced his way through the pair of them for a stunning solo effort.
There was a late surge to mount a mini comeback from the Lions, who scored two tries to make it a six-point game, but the Stormers shut the door on any hopes of Lions comeback when replacement scrumhalf Paul de Wet darted over to score and seal the win.
Lions – Tries: Courtnall Skosan, Jamba Ulengo, MJ Pelser. Conversions: Elton Jantjies, Gianni Lombard (2).
Stormers – Tries: Dan du Plessis, Scarra Ntubeni, Siya Kolisi, Warrick Gelant, Paul de Wet. Conversions: Damian Willemse (3). Penalty: Willemse.
Lions – 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Sibahle Maxwane, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (c), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Dylan Smith.
Subs: 16 Sti Sithole, 17 Jan-Henning Campher, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Reinhard Nothnagel, 21 MJ Pelser, 22 Francke Horn, 23 Len Massyn, 24 Dillon Smit, 25 Gianni Lombard, 26 Stean Pienaar, 27 Daniel Kriel, 28 Manuel Rass, 29 Jamba Ulengo, 30 EW Viljoen.
Stormers – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Leolin Zas, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Nama Xaba, 21 Hannes Gouws, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Tim Swiel, 24 Michal Hazner, 25 Angelo Davids, 26 Tristan Leyds.
Photo: Gallo Images