Stuttering Stormers leave it late

The Stormers scored two tries in the last 10 minutes to beat the Sharks 17-16 in a warm-match on Saturday.

Improvements were expected in this the Sharks and Stormers’ second game of the Tri-Series. The Stormers beat the Lions comfortably in their first clash, but it was a performance not without error. The Sharks were all over the place in their 41-10 defeat to the Lions, and were even accused by their own coach of a lack of commitment.

The respective coaches should be disappointed with the sad lack of progress. The Sharks enjoyed the majority of possession but were again hampered by shocking handling and an inability to cross the gainline. The Stormers were inhibited by frantic decision-making, and missed an old head in the backline to exude the necessary calm.

Gary van Aswegen had a shocker for the home team. All but crowned the next Dan Carter by some publications after his average showing against the Lions, he struggled against the Sharks. His option taking at flyhalf was awful and contributed to unnecessary turnovers on several occasions. He fluffed penalty kicks at the line, took a senseless pot at goal inside the first five minutes, and succeeded in sending one 22 kickoff into touch.

Given the Stormers’ dearth of possession, it was unforgivable. It showed he may not be as mentally strong as the Stormers coaches first thought.

The Stormers battled at the breakdown, but when they got some momentum, they punched holes in the Sharks’ defensive line. Unfortunately for the home fans, linebreaks were often succeeded by knock-ons, and the aforementioned frantic and at times over-zealous approach led to infringements at the breakdown.

The Sharks blew several scoring opportunities, but were clearly more at ease with the loose nature of the contest. Lwazi Mvovo hacked one loose ball ahead in the ninth minute, regathered and offloaded to Meyer Bosman. It was the first try the Stormers had conceded in the Tri-Series.

A yellow card for a no-arms tackle saw De Kock Steenkamp sent to the cooler, and the Sharks went to the break with a handy 10-3 lead. They may have enjoyed a greater advantage if not for two missed goal-attempts by Pat Lambie.

But the Stormers continued to blunder in the second half, and Lambie was handed further opportunities to build on the visitors’ lead. There were moments where the Stormers threatened to score, like when the hard-working Bryan Habana broke from deep, but bright moments like these anticlimaxed horribly.

The late substitutions seemed to make all the difference. The home team began to play with more structure, and flyhalf Elgar Watts lent them more direction. His try in the 73rd minute gave the Stormers some hope, and a great conversion by Lionel Cronje edged the hosts closer.

When Sharks reserve flank Daniel Adonga was sin-binned, the Sharks all but conceded defeat. After a repeated drive at the line, Adriaan Fondse got over the line and Cronje added the extras to win the game.