Siya Kolisi (captain) of the Stormers challenged by Andre Warner of the Lions during the SuperFan Saturday match between Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on September 26, 2020 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)
Power trumped guile as the Stormers kept the Lions at bay to record a 34-21 win in the two sides’ Super Fan Saturday meeting at Loftus on Saturday night.
In a match where both sides used the final half-hour to field new combinations, the Capetonians’ starting forwards laid the foundation, delivering a typically robust performance.
Frans Malherbe, subject to ridicule from some quarters on social media for packing a few extra kilos after lockdown, only played 34 minutes initially but produced an exemplary scrumming performance.
He then came on late again to stabilise things.
It was his influence that went a long way to throwing the Lions off their stride, who normally pride themselves on holding their own at that set-piece, as well inspiring his teammates in the pack – notably No 8 Juarno Augustus and lock JD Schickerling – who were anyway expected to shade the tight exchanges.
Ironically, the Lions’ early try was an indication of how they would initially struggle to obtain front-foot ball, with scrumhalf Andre Warner doing well to keep his head from a disintegrating scrum and allowing flyhalf and skipper Elton Jantjies to launch a splendid cross-kick for Courtnall Skosan on the wing.
But that lead didn’t last long as the Stormers turned on the screws, simply not allowing their opponents to gain any foothold.
Their defence was also outstanding at times.
They were also helped by the Lions’ astonishing penalty count of 11, which came to a head with lock Marvin Orie’s yellow card for repeated team infringements.
Centre Dan du Plessis pounced on a bullet of a Damian Willemse pass to score the Stormers’ first try, which was followed by hooker Scarra Ntubeni’s score from a maul.
Seemingly weary from their opponents’ physicality, the Lions allowed two soft tries for skipper Siya Kolisi, who produced a disdainful hand-off on Warner to score on the half-time hooter, before new Stormers recruit Warrick Gelant, full of enterprise at fullback, skilfully ran at two front-rowers to scythe through a seemingly non-existent gap.
There was a momentum shift once the Lions brought on their “second XV” and the Stormers sacrificed their powerful Bok-laden combo for a more nimble one.
Tries for wing Jamba Ulengo and flanker MJ Pelser put the Gautengers back in contention but were thwarted by a large deficit as well as the ball-poaching skills of replacement opensider Nama Xaba.
The Stormers eventually sealed their win with a late try for halfback Paul de Wet.
Tries: Courtnall Skosan, Jamba Ulengo, MJ Pelser
Conversions: Gianni Lombard (2), Elton Jantjies
Tries: Dan du Plessis, Scarra Ntubeni, Siya Kolisi, Warrick Gelant, Paul de Wet
Conversions: Damian Willemse (2), Tim Swiel