Stormers snatch thriller at Ellis Park

Herschel Jantjies played 80 minutes on his return from injury as the Stormers slotted a last-minute penalty for a 39-37 victory over the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Gameflow: A thrilling encounter at Ellis Park was played at a frenetic pace, that even had referee AJ Jacobs huffing and puffing as he tried to keep up with play.

The two teams went blow for blow in the first half, with the Lions just edging ahead at the break thanks to a well-worked try from fullback EW Viljoen.

This pattern continued in the second half as both teams had soft moments on defence. Nevertheless, there was some excellent attacking play, with five tries scored in the second period.

It looked as if the Lions may have sealed it when debutant flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse converted a penalty, before Rabz Maxwane ran a good 50 metres to score a try in the 73rd minute.

However, for once a bit of luck went the Stormers’ way as centre Dan du Plessis scored his second try, before they worked their way into the Lions’ half and won a penalty, which Tim Swiel slotted.

Bok watch: Stormers scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies was the pick of the Springboks involved in this clash. After missing last week’s loss to the Bulls, he made his presence felt with a brilliant performance. He almost scored an intercept try in the first half, but for good defensive work from the Lions’ Wandisile Simelane. Jantjies also won a telling breakdown penalty in the final couple of minutes, when the Lions were desperately trying to run the clock down.

Meanwhile, Bongi Mbonambi scored a first-half try from the back of a maul. The Bok hooker found his jumpers with more ease than in the last game, and continued his good work from ruck to ruck.  He was substituted early in the second half.

Bok props Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe had a bit of an off day at the scrum against two former Stormers props in Sti Sithole and Caru Sadie. That may have had something to do with the firepower or lack thereof in the second rows.  But both Boks were substituted in the second half and the Stormers’ fortunes in the scrum improved from there on.

Best of the rest: Lions centre Wandisile Simelane scored a good intercept try. He chased Jantjies down when the Stormers scrumhalf intercepted, made a good cover tackle, albeit giving away a penalty for a high tackle.  Also assisted EW Viljoen’s try.

Jordan Hendrikse was solid on debut, kicking two penalties and three conversions. He picked up an assist after following Andre Warner up and producing an excellent offload to put MJ Pelser in for a try.

The Lions scrumhalves also deserve a shout-out. Andre Warner played a role in Pelser’s try, with a good dummy, chip and chase and scored one himself. His replacement, Morne van den Berg, almost had the most decisive touch when he broke away from a scrum to put Rabz Maxwane away for the winning try.

For the Stormers, centre pair Rikus Pretorius and Dan du Plessis (who scored a brace) had arguably their best 40 minutes in the second half, while Edwill van der Merwe also had a very good game, scoring a try and assisting Du Plessis with his second.

Captain’s clangers: In the first couple of rounds of the Rainbow Cup SA, the captain’s challenge has been debated, but arguably well utilised to review foul play referees may have missed. However, this match featured the worst of the new law, as both captains wasted their challenge. Steven Kitshoff asked for a review of a high tackle on Herschel Jantjies, but it turned out that Hendrikse had started in a low position and it was dismissed. Lions captain Burger Odendaal’s challenge was arguably worse. After Marcel Theunissen scored, Odendaal sent a review up for a ‘dangerous clean-out’, but it seemed to come from one of his teammates. After wasting minutes looking for the incident, the TMO advised Jacobs to dismiss the challenge. When the end goal has to be to speed up the game, these desperate challenges accomplish little in reaching that.

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Dylan Jack