Jaco Taute kicked a drop goal after the hooter to hand the Stormers an unlikely 21-19 victory over the Sharks at Kings Park. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Jake White will be livid with his charges. The Sharks had this game won.
The Stormers' replacement flyhalf, Demetri Catrakilis, had knocked the ball on in the 79th minute and handed the Sharks what should have been the final scrum of the game. But instead of controlling possession and killing the clock, reserve scrumhalf Charl McLeod hacked the ball downfield and invited the Stormers to counter-attack.
The Cape side played themselves into a strong position, and eventually referee Jaco Peyper was forced to award them a penalty advantage. This encouraged Taute, who had not enjoyed a particularly good game up to that point, to launch a drop-goal attempt. The success of this kick brought an end to the game and allowed the Stormers to secure a massive win against the tournament favourites.
Earlier on Saturday, the Bulls' play-off hopes were dealt a massive blow with the loss to the Lions at Ellis Park. This result handed the Sharks the South African conference title, as the Durban franchise is now well clear of the Bulls with only a couple of league matches remaining.
The Sharks have achieved their first objective in winning their first trophy of the season, for winning the conference. They will go into the June break having maintained their position at the top of the overall log, but it should irk them that the lead they hold over the Waratahs and Crusaders is not as big as it should be.
Frans Steyn was in sublime goal-kicking form during the first half, and yet the Sharks didn't make all their opportunities count. Stormers flank Nizaam Carr was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle in the 10th minute, and the visitors managed to concede three points and score three of their own during that period of sanction.
The Sharks played a territorial game, and set the rolling maul in the dying stages of the first half. The ball went wide, and then scrumhalf Cobus Reinach sniped from the base to score a try right before half-time.
Steyn kicked the conversion and then a penalty after the break, but the Stormers remained in touch through the accurate efforts of Kurt Coleman and Catrakilis. The visitors succeeded in pressuring the Sharks defence, and had they been more clinical in other areas, they may taken a lead earlier in the contest
The Sharks' indiscipline on defence eventually resulted in a yellow card for flank Marcell Coetzee in the 64th minute. The Sharks kept the Stormers scoreless during this period, and even managed to force a penalty at the other end of the field. However, Steyn missed this attempt, which would prove costly considering the final scoreline.
The win is a big one for the Stormers, as it marks their first on the road in 2014. They are no longer in the play-off picture, but this result will encourage them as they endeavour to finish the season on a high.
Sharks – Try: Cobus Reinach. Conversion: Frans Steyn. Penalties: Steyn (4).
Stormers – Penalties: Coleman (4), Demetri Catrakilis (2). Drop goal: Jaco Taute.
Sharks – 15 SP Marais, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 S’bura Sithole, 12 Paul Jordaan, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Francois Steyn, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Tera Mtembu, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Heimar Williams.
Stormers – 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Stephan Coetzee, 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Subs: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Martin Dreyer, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Manuel Carizza, 21 Dylon Frylinck, 22 Demetri Catrakilis, 23 Peter Grant.
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Sharks scrumhalf Cobus Reinach contributed with some ground-gaining tactical kicks, but was more dangerous with ball in hand. This was no more evident than in the lead up to half time, where Reinach sniped from the base of the ruck and completed the momentum-shifting score. The Sharks certainly lost something when he was subbed in the second half.
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