The DHL Stormers went down 6-12 to the Sharks in a hard-fought all-South African Super Rugby encounter in Durban on Saturday evening.
The scores were deadlocked at 0-0 after a physical opening forty minutes with very few scoring opportunities as the teams felt each other out.
The first points of the game came from the Sharks in the 42nd minute, with flyhalf Pat Lambie slotting a penalty before Joe Pietersen equalised for the Stormers just three minutes later.
Lambie – who, along with Frans Steyn, missed a penalty attempt in the first half – landed his second kick in the 53rd minute to make it 6-3, adding his third penalty two minutes later as the Sharks led 9-3 after 55 minutes.
The Stormers, however, never gave up and their patience was rewarded when they won another kickable penalty which Pietersen slotted to narrow the gap to 6-9 after 58 minutes.
Lambie had another opportunity to make it 12-6 with twenty minutes left in the game but the Stormers were still in the match – knowing that a converted try would still win it for them.
The final ten minutes, in particular, were tense as the Stormers – who have conceded just one try in 160 minutes of Super Rugby in 2013 – pushed hard for that elusive try.
They had their opportunities, only for the last pass to go to ground and the Sharks eventually sealed the win as the ball popped loose in injury-time.
The DHL Stormers picked up a losing bonus point for their efforts, with neither side able to score a try on the night.
“Both teams were defensively solid, but our discipline let us down in the end,” said a disappointed DHL Stormers captain Jean de Villiers afterwards.
“We’re looking forward to playing at home next week (against the Chiefs). It’s a tough competition, but hopefully we can keep on performing better and pick up a win in front of our home fans.”
The Stormers, after two games on the road, will host their first home game of the 2013 season next weekend when the defending champion Chiefs descend upon DHL Newlands. Thereafter the Stormers will enjoy a bye, before successive home games against the Brumbies (March 23) and the Crusaders (March 30).
For the Sharks:
Pens: Lambie 4
For the DHL Stormers:
Pens: Pietersen 2
Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Francois Steyn (captain), 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Odwa Ndungane.
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Don Armand, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Peter Grant, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)