CAPE TOWN – The Stormers, the underdogs, lead from start to finish to inflict a 16-11 defeat over the hitherto unbeaten Sharks in the South African Super Rugby derby at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
The visiting Stormers deservedly led 13-3 at the break after enjoying a decided territorial and possession advantage in the first half. During this time they spurned several try-scoring chances in the striking zone but they could not find a way through as they ran out of ideas rather than stout defence by the Sharks.
The game started at a fast pace with the Sharks looking to move the ball with crisp inter-passing and flair but they suffered a 4th-minute setback as Stormers fullback Damian Willemse pulled off an interception and sprinted away unchallenged for a try. Leftwing SP Marais added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Flyhalf Robert du Preez opened the Sharks’ scoring account with a 15th-minute penalty after the Stormers were blown up for a scrum infringement (7-3).
Two minutes later the Sharks were guilty of a breakdown infringement and Marais fluffed his 40m strike in a missed chance to restore the 7-point lead.
Another scoring chance emerged moments later when the Stormers had four 5m line-outs in quick succession but each time they failed to capitalise from the set-piece. Afterwards, the Stormers also had a 5m scrum that too could not provide a scoring platform even though the Sharks were a man short after off-side centre Lukhanyo Am was yellow-carded for repeated team offences.
Marais missed another penalty in the 26th minute and yet another scoring chance went begging at a time when the Stormers were enjoying almost total dominance. At this stage, the Stormers’ pressure had caused the Sharks to give up seven penalties after 26 minutes’ play.
Eventually, Marais was on target with a second penalty in the 28th minute and the Stormers enjoyed a 10-3 lead.
Ten minutes ahead of the break the Sharks managed to enjoy a surfeit of possession. They enjoyed a few penetrative raids but lacked cohesion over a 7-minute passage of play before they surrendered a breakdown penalty which Marais goaled for a 10-point lead (13-3).
In the process of the breakdown play, the Sharks suffered a second yellow-card offence and this time hooker Akker van der Merwe was sent to the sin-bin moments before the sides changed ends with the visiting Stormers taking a 13-3 halftime lead.
When second-half play resumed it was all Sharks – still down to 14 players, as they surged upfield with patient build-up play before Am crossed for the team’s first try which went unconverted, just two minutes after the restart (13-8).
The momentum shift in the game continued when Stormers centre midfielder Dan du Plessis was sin-binned and the Sharks came desperately close with a second try in the 47th minute.
There was continued Sharks pressure in ensuing play and they managed to reduce the deficit with another Du Preez penalty in the 49th minute (13-11).
The Stormers were offering stern defence but their discipline let them down as the Sharks looked to impose themselves on the match.
Once the Stormers weathered the pressure spells they bounced back just past the hour mark and after several sorties in the Sharks’ half they went further ahead through a Marais penalty in the 65th minute (16-11).
Over the remainder of the match, both sides had attacking opportunities but the Stormers managed to protect their led to run out winners at the end.
Scorers: Sharks 11 (3): Try: Lukhanyo Am. Penalties: Robert du Preez (2)
Stormers 16 (13): Try: Damian Willemse. Conversion: SP Marais. Penalties: Marais (2)
African News Agency (ANA)