Both DHL Stormers Head Coach Robbie Fleck and captain Siya Kolisi praised the immense character their side showed to secure a 28-20 victory over the Jaguares in the opening clash of the 2018 Vodacom Super Rugby season at DHL Newlands.
The result sees the DHL Stormers top the South African conference after the opening round of matches with a superior points difference, but they were forced to dig deep to secure that position.
Despite dominating the first half and scoring just after half-time, the hosts found themselves down to 14 men and within striking distance of the Jaguares, until two momumental scrum efforts saw them secure the points and get off to a winning start in front of the DHL Newlands Faithful.
Centre Damian de Allende packed down behind JC Janse van Rensburg and they managed to shove the Jaguares pack backwards to win a match-defining penalty.
It was another scrum shortly afterwards that proved the final nail in the Jaguares’ coffin, with young flyhalf Damian Willemse stepping up to coolly slot the kick which denied them a deserved bonus point.
Fleck said that the character his side showed under pressure in the final stages at DHL Newlands is cause for encouragement going forward.
“It was great character at the end, we had to fight hard, They obviously got a lot of energy from getting a penalty try when we were man down and under the pump.
“Getting two penalties in a row in those last two scrums and the defence to hold them out was crucial, because we know that they are a good attacking side.
“It was unbelievable scrummaging from JC Janse van Rensburg, he got us two penalties in a row, so good character,” he said.
The DHL Stormers coach felt that his team could have won far more comfortably if they had taken advantage of all the opportunities they created, especially in the first half which saw them breaking the defensive line regularly.
“There were so many chances in that first half but our finishing let us down. I guess there is a bit of rustiness in the group which is to be expected with the amount of injuries and changes we have had to make over the last couple of weeks.
“Our decision-making let us down at times and we left a lot out there, to be honest,” said Fleck.
Kolisi said that his team will take some valuable lessons from the win going forward this season.
“You don’t have to lose to learn all the time. We did well to fight when we were under pressure.
“What stood out for us today was our character, we wanted to get on the plane with a win behind our back,” he said.
Kolisi added that the squad are looking forward to the upcoming tour, which will see them take on the Waratahs, Highlanders and Crusaders over the next three weeks.
“We are positive about it, I think that is where we get to know each other more and spend time with one another. We feel a lot for one another, especially on the field, but now is the time to get to know each other off the field as well.
“We are going to have to give it everything and not hold back, it is important to work hard on that side and give it a flat-out go,” he said.