Stormers sunk in Shark Tank

The Sharks fought back to record a 12-10 victory when the Stormers conceded two yellow cards in the second half.

The Stormers led 10-0 for 47 minutes before Schalk Burger was controversially sin-binned for an infringement at the ruck. The call came from the referee’s assistant Willie Roos, the same man the Stormers complained about in their previous loss to the Bulls.

A subsequent infringement by Dylan des Fountain also earned a yellow, and Sharks replacement Rory Kockott kicked his third penalty of the night to give the hosts a 12-10 lead with nine minutes to play. The Stormers had nothing left in the tank, and the Sharks did well to hold out for the win.

The humidity certainly seemed to take its toll, as both sides fumbled the pill in the early stages. Peter Grant was guilty of spilling a few passes that placed his side under pressure, while the high ball by the Sharks also proved effective. However, the Sharks could not translate this or their possessional and territorial advantage into points early on.

The visitors stood up in the scrums and contested well in the line-out, with Andries Bekker having a huge game at the set-piece. The defence was at times susceptible out wide, but on their own line, they proved impenetrable as the Sharks failed to rumble over from close range.

A great line-out move back to Tiaan Liebenberg was responsible for sparking the only try of the game. Liebenberg continued his fantastic form from last week, bouncing the first defender and setting up great attacking ball. The Stormers eventually found themselves inches form the tryline before Ricky Januarie dummied the long pass and swan-dived for the opening score.

Ruan Pienaar had pushed an early penalty attempt, and Frans Steyn also failed to convert a long-range effort from his own half. Another Sharks attack through the forwards was turned over on the Stormers line, and had Grant passed or grubbered, the visitors may have taken a 14-0 lead. Opposite number Freddie Michalak got back well to make the tackle, and Grant dropped the ball in contact.

The breakdown battle was as intense as expected, with the Stormers pack dominating in the first half to rob the Sharks of any significant go-forward. Burger was a monster on defence, although he did push the boundaries on several occasions in an attempt to win back the ball.

Michalak’s Super Rugby debut was a great success. Even though the Sharks forwards failed to lay an adequate platform, the French flyhalf produced some neat touches that lent the Sharks backs a very dangerous edge.

Grant kicked a crucial penalty at the end of the first half after the Stormers had mauled the Sharks off their thriving line-out. After absorbing all the pressure in the first 40 minutes, the Stormers had obtained the upper hand.

But the game took a turn when Burger was binned after the break. The Springbok openside expressed his disgust with the decision when walking off. This dissent may cost the Stormers later on.

The game never wanted for intensity with both sides dishing out some massive defensive hits. The high ball was also reintroduced as the Stormers looked to force an error in Sharks territory. It was to no avail, but the Stormers still managed to avoid conceding a point during Burger’s exclusion. During this period, the Sharks missed another penalty goal attempt with Kockott guilty of pushing it wide on this occasion.

But Kelvin Deeker began to lose patience with the Stormers as they continued to kill the ball in the red zone, and on his second attempt Kockott bisected the posts. A subsequent negative display Des Fountain earned him 10 minutes in the bin, and Kockott edged the Sharks three-points closer with another successful goal.

This time the Stormers struggled to halt the hosts’ momentum, and a high tackle by Luke Watson gave the Sharks another opportunity. Kockott’s kick gave them a 12-10 lead with only 9 minutes to play and the exhausted Stormers outfit were never going to close this gap with 14 men.

Sharks – Penalty: Ruan Pienaar, Rory Kockott (3).
Stormers – Try: Ricky Januarie. Conversion. Peter Grant. Penalty: Grant.

By Jon Cardinelli