The DHL Stormers got back to winning ways with a passionate 20-15 Super Rugby win over the Reds at DHL Newlands on Saturday night.
The Stormers, playing in front of a supportive crowd of 25,134, scored the game’s only try – a magnificent effort from skipper Jean de Villiers – but they worked hard for the victory.
It was their first game back at home after four weeks on the road and they went into this match with 15 top players missing because of injury or illness, which saw them hand a starting debut to young lock Gerbrandt Grobler – along with three potential debutants (Chris Heiberg, Marius Coetzer, Rohan Kitshoff) named on the bench.
The home team led 3-0 at the break, thanks to a Joe Pietersen penalty goal on the stroke of half-time – all of which began with a line-out steal from newbie Grobler.
De Villiers then sped down the left-hand touchline for his try early in the second half, finishing well after a well-timed no-look Pietersen pass. Pietersen had taken a neat tap down from Bryan Habana, the Springbok winger having palmed the ball down on the left flank to his fullback from a beautifully-timed Elton Jantjies cross-kick.
Pietersen could not convert but the Stormers were leading 8-0 after 45 minutes.
Reds No.10 Quade Cooper, who had missed two penalties up till then, landed his first penalty and the rest of the match was a kicking contest between the respective goalkickers – Pietersen and Cooper.
The scoring sequence went from from 8-3, to 11-3, to 11-6, to 11-9, to 14-9, before the Reds narrowed the gap to 14-12 and briefly – with ten minutes left on the clock – took the lead at 15-14.
But the Stormers came back firing from the restart to secure a penalty, which Pietersen landed from the angle, and the hosts were back ahead at 17-14 with nine minutes left.
Fit-again hooker Tiaan Liebenberg made an important tackle about five minutes before full-time, which gave the Stormers another penalty. Pietersen calmly – and crucially! – landed the kick at goal and at 20-15, with three minutes remaining on the clock, the hosts looked to close the game out.
The Reds, however, had other ideas and held onto the ball patiently for numerous phases – well until past the full-time hooter. Eventually, however, the Stormers – after making tackle-after-tackle – forced a penalty (through that man Liebenberg again) and Jantjies kicked to touch to seal the valuable victory.
“It’s been one of the toughest weeks in my career. Coming back from the tour, with plenty of injuries, and facing a top team like the Reds,” said Stormers head coach Allister Coetzee.
“This win shouldn’t be under-estimated against a quality Reds team. It showed the character of the team – something you can’t coach.”
DHL Stormers lock Eben Etzebeth, playing his first-ever Super Rugby match in the No.5 shirt, was voted the official Vodacom Super Rugby Man of the Match after yet another colossal performance from the Springbok star.
For the DHL Stormers:
Tries: De Villiers
Pens: Pietersen 5
For the Reds:
Pens: Cooper 5
DHL Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Don Armand, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Eben Etzebeth, 4 Gerbrandt Grobler, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Marius Coetzer, 19 Rohan Kitshoff, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Reds: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Radike Samo, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Jake Schatz, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons , 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Ed O’Donoghue, 19 Eddie Quirk, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Ben Tapuai.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)