It was a topsy-turvy match, but in the end the DHL Stormers did enough to open their Vodacom Super Rugby campaign with a 39-26 victory at home against the Hurricanes.
Both teams gave their all throughout the game and DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee admitted that there was a sense of relief after the final whistle.
He said: “I was very happy, but also relieved with the result. It was a nervous start to the season, but both sides gave it a full go for the entire 80 minutes.
“I felt like we played very well in the first half, but we allowed them back in the second. Credit however must go to the players. They took control of the game and in the end sealed what is a vital win to start the season.”
The hosts were handed a major blow early on in the contest when captain Schalk Burger was stretchered off the field with medial ligament damage. Burger will be missing for four to six weeks, but Coetzee praised his side for how they dealt with the loss of the former IRB player of the year.
“It is never good to lose your captain and things could have gone pear-shaped when he went off, but the senior players stepped up. The side showed their maturity and that was very pleasing to see.
“To lose a player of Schalla’s calibre is always a big loss, but this is a chance for some of the other players to step up. We have some great depth and now it is their chance to show what they are capable of.”
Some of that squad depth was for all to see in the form of youngsters Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff and Siya Kolisi who all put in fantastic performances on Saturday. Coetzee said: “We realised Siya’s potential as a ball carrier. He has physically matured and a long with Eben and Steven were excellent tonight. They added to what was a fantastic forward performance.
“A lot was said in the media about the pack this week and I think they answered that on the pitch tonight. They were outstanding and I am very happy with how they performed.”
Besides the captain only lock De Kock Steenkamp is an injury concern and he will be assessed in the week. The good news is the return of Juan de Jongh and Rynardt Elstadt who were both sidelined through injury.
The squad will also welcome back flyhalf Peter Grant who is expected back from Japan this week. The coaching staff will assess Grant before making a decision upon when he will return to the side. Up next is the Sharks next weekend at DHL Newlands, tickets are on sale now from www.ticketpros.co.za.
DHL Stormers – Tries: Gio Aplon, Siyamthanda Kolisi, penalty try. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (3). Penalties: Pietersen (5). Drop goal: Gary van Aswegen.
Hurricanes – Tries: Tim Bateman, Beauden Barrett. Conversions: Barrett (2). Penalties: Barrett (4).