The DHL Stormers went down 26-27 to the Cheetahs in their one-off pre-season friendly on a very hot Saturday afternoon in Bloemfontein.
With both teams scoring three tries on the day, Nizaam Carr grabbing a try-double for the DHL Stormers, a last-gasp penalty by Cheetahs replacement Hansie Graaff grabbed the win for the home side.
Graaff landed a 55-metre penalty to hand the win to the Cheetahs in a match that was largely dominated by the visitors who led 11-0 at half-time.
The DHL Stormers backs – in particular centre Juan de Jongh and new squad member Jaco Taute – looked full of running early on, but it was fit-again flanker Carr who crashed over from a maul in the 32nd minute.
Flyhalf Kurt Coleman was unable to convert but two earlier penalty goals from the DHL Stormers playmaker helped to make it 11-0 to the visitors at the break.
Both teams went to their benches in the second half and the Cheetahs eventually got on the scoreboard in the 43rd minute through a Riaan Smit penalty.
Carr racked up his try double shortly before the 50-minute mark, after spinning away from a powerful maul, and at 16-3 the Stormers – already fielding a young and experimental starting XV – made a few more changes.
An opportunistic try by Sarel Pretorius saw the Cheetahs close to the gap to 16-10 and the home side took the lead inside the final quarter when Frans Viljoen rumbled over from a maul.
Coleman regained the lead for the Stormers with his third penalty of the day – to make it 19-17 to the Stormers – and the DHL Stormers No.10 then set up centre Damian de Allende for a great try thanks to a clever kick-ahead.
A try by Cheetahs winger Rocco Jansen – with Elgar Watts landing his third conversion – narrowed the gap to 24-26 as the clock wound down and the hosts had just enough in the tank to land the winning penalty on the stroke of full-time, the DHL Stormers also finishing the match with 14 men after a rare Bryan Habana yellow card.
The DHL Stormers coaching staff would have taken plenty out of this match, especially with stars like Deon Fourie, Andries Bekker, Schalk Burger, Siya Kolisi, Jean de Villiers and Joe Pietersen all expected to come into the selection equation for next week’s friendly against the Boland Cavaliers.
The Stormers will start their 2013 Vodacom Super Rugby campaign against the Bulls (in Pretoria) on Friday, February 22.
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Pretorius, Viljoen, Jansen
Cons: Watts 3
Pens: Smit, Graaff
For the DHL Stormers:
Tries: Carr 2, De Allende
Pens: Coleman 3