Stormers clinch Super Hero thriller
Gavin Rich
February 03, 2019

DHL Stormers captain Chris van Zyl crashed over for a late try and then his team defended like a trophy was at stake to clinch an exciting 33-28 win over the Vodacom Bulls in the late SuperHero Sunday match at Cape Town Stadium.

While in the earlier game between the Lions and the Sharks, which was won 19-14 by the Lions, the defensive systems dominated and line-speed was to the fore, in this game there appeared to be more of an accent on producing the running angles and off-loading that would entertain the boisterous and appreciative 55 000 crowd.

Certainly that was the case in the first half, when patrons were entertained by seven tries as well as a dramatic fluctuation in the momentum of the game.

In the second half, when the reserves came on, it was much tighter, but no less absorbing as the two traditional rivals slugged it out in an appetising dress-rehearsal for the real thing that is on the menu when they kick of their respective Vodacom Super Rugby seasons against each other at Loftus in Pretoria in two weeks hence.

In the first half there were some big games from some of the Bulls’ more established players and they showed good shape on attack throughout the game. Alan Zondagh, the new director of rugby in Pretoria, is a long time disciple of the ball doing the work philosophy, while of course the John Mitchell template won’t be abandoned in a hurry, much as was the case at the Lions when Mitchell left the Johannesburg union.

There were some stupendous off-loads from both teams, with Lood de Jager showing what the Bulls missed in the second two thirds of last year’s Super Rugby season when he was injured. But while the Bulls had their moments, it was the Stormers who did all the scoring in the first quarter, with Scarra Ntubeni setting up the try with an intercept and break that sent in Seabelo Senatla.

Ntubeni was one of several Stormers players who were in an inspired mood on the day and he was to frequent on the break and offloading several times during the match.

Jaco Coetzee, playing on the Stormers flank, set up the second try with an explosive break that led to Josh Stander crossing near the uprights, and then came an intercept try from SP Marais. That intercept came off a move where the Bulls were building strongly and De Jager had produced a superb off-load - had this been a game that really mattered, the Bulls might have regretted the mistakes they made.

But it was not a game where the result should really have mattered that much - though the beleaguered Stormers players, under the cosh for what is happening off the field at their union, did celebrate like crazy at the final whistle - as it was all about building for the new season.

That said the experience of being part of such a fast paced game and in front of such a large crowd and in a rousing atmosphere should hold both teams in good stead. It was a timely good advertisement for what South African rugby has to offer.

The Stormers scored 21 unanswered points in fewer minutes, but the Bulls stormed back, first with Bok flyhalf Handre Pollard exploiting a Stormers defensive error near their line, and it was followed by a try that was sparked by a charge by former Stormers hero Duane Vermeulen down the right flank, carried on by wing Duncan Matthews and rounded off by scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl.

Juarno Augustus, so impressive off the back of the scrum for the Stormers, nearly scored early on but then made sure of it when he charged down a kick. He’d have been close to the man of the match and Stormers coach Robbie Fleck does have a big headache awaiting him when it comes to selection at No 8 as he also has a capped Springbok in Sikhumbuzo Notshe available there.

Warrick Gelant, and isn’t it great to see him back in the game after injury, scored a good try for the Bulls to make it a 5 point game (26-21 to the Stormers) at the break.

The Bulls dominated the third quarter and took the lead when Paul Schoeman crossed for a try and Manie Libbok converted. But by the final quarter the Stormers were getting back into the game and they were slipping into the ascendancy by the time, after a period where they had camped in the Bulls 22, their skipper went over for the winning try.

It was a pleasing win for the Stormers given the distractions that have been so spoken about in Cape Town over the past week or so but ultimately this was one day where that old cliche of rugby being the real winner was apt. A large crowd filed out of the stadium at the end feeling they’d been richly entertained.


DHL Stormers (Thor) - Tries: Seabelo Senatla, Josh Stander, SP Marais, Juarno Augustus and Chris van Zyl; Conversions: SP Marais 2, Josh Stander and Damien Willemse.

Vodacom Bulls (Captain America) - Tries: Handre Pollard, Ivan van Zyl, Warrick Gelant and Paul Schoeman; Conversions: Handre Pollard 3 and Manie Libbok.

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