The DHL Stormers opened their account in the 2013 Vodacom Super Rugby tournament, courtesy of a 36-34 win over the Chiefs at DHL Newlands on Saturday.
Playing their first home match of the season, the DHL Stormers showed the 37,178-strong crowd what they are capable of and their supporters would have gone home feeling more than satisfied.
Winger Gio Aplon ran in a try-double, scrumhalf Nic Groom scored his first try in Super Rugby and fullback Joe Pietersen did not miss a kick at goal… but it was the forwards who laid the platform on the day for the Men in Royal Blue & White.
Locks De Kock Steenkamp and Andries Bekker (the official Vodacom Man of the Match) ruled the line-outs, the loose forwards handled the ball well and powerfully on attack and the front row, with Tiaan Liebenberg also making his return as a replacement at hooker, put themselves about.
First a rolling maul had the Chiefs back-peddaling some 10 metres, and then the rampaging Stormers forwards punched holes in the opposition defence before right-wing Gio Aplon ran in for an eighth-minute try, which was converted by Pietersen. Earlier, Pietersen had succeeded with a penalty before and after this opening try to crown a 13-point flurry.
Fullback Gareth Anscombe reduced the deficit for Chiefs with a 40m penalty, and in the 16th minute centre Charlie Ngatai dived on to a grubber through the Stormers defence for a converted try as the New Zealanders clawed their way back into the match at 10-13.
Eight minutes ahead of the break, the Stormers’ pressure inside the Chiefs half started taking its toll and the visiting scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow was yellow-carded for a breakdown offence and the match then came alive at both ends of the field on the stroke of half-time – that after two more Pietersen penalties had the Stormers leading by 19-10.
First another grubber kick opened the Stormers defence and centre Tim Nanai-Williams dashed in for a converted try for the Chiefs to narrow the scoreline to 19-17 (still in favour of the Stormers). But moments later that man Aplon ran onto a kick-ahead in the Chiefs’ 22m area to collect his second converted try to make it 26-17 at the break.
Anscombe missed a penalty early in the second half and then landed his next attempt (in the 46th minute) to make it 26-20, before Groom’s try in the 52nd minute – from a great build-up by his forwards – stretched the home team’s lead to 33-20.
Ngatai then collected his try double four minutes later but Pietersen kept the scoreboard ticking over with his fifth penalty to make it 36-27 to the DHL Stormers going into the final quarter.
Replacement back Andrew Horrell claimed a bonus point try for the Chiefs, with some eight minutes left in the match, and there were a few nervous moments in a frantic final few minutes for the hosts, who would also have been looking for a four-try bonus themselves.
However, they held out for a deserved first win of the season – back in the comforts of Newlands, after two tough away games in Pretoria and Durban – ahead of their bye next weekend.
The DHL Stormers’ next game is on Saturday, March 23 – again at DHL Newlands (kick 19h10) – against the Brumbies of Australia.
For the DHL Stormers:
Tries: Aplon 2, Groom
Cons: Pietersen 3
Pens: Pietersen 5
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Ngatai 2, Nanai-Williams, Horrell
Cons: Anscombe 4
Pens: Anscombe 2
DHL 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 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Don Armand, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Peter Grant, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (captain), 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Patrick Osborne.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)