The Stormers were made to work hard for their 41-10 bonus-point win over the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
It's a big win, which means it was big defeat and yet both sides can take satisfaction from the match - the Stormers for their handling and bonus point, the Kings for their enthusiasm and the chances they created and the determination they showed.
The Kings certainly made the Stormers work with the speed and aggression of their tackling and the way they contested the post-tackle ball. On the other hand the Stormers were so creative and clever in their quick and secure handling, finding team-mates in a better position and passing before contact - old virtues which are still valid on the rugby field.
It was six tries to one, two of those six coming in the last four minutes of the game. Before that it had been four-one, just enough for a bonus point, and it was at 4-1 that the Kings twice came close to scoring, both after winning Stormers' line-outs.
One would have expected the Stormers' pack with its six Springboks to have overrun the Kings with one, but it was the Kings who won the turnover count in the match and the Kings who won four Stormers' line-outs. But when play was unstructured, the Stormers were much too good.
The Kings scored first. Twice the Stormers were penalised for being offside at tackles, unlikely decisions, as England learnt against Italy. Lionel Cronje goaled the second one for a 3-0 lead in five minutes.
Cronje's goal-kicking is remarkable. He has now kicked 15 successful kicks from 15 attempts in 2017 Super Rugby, the 15th the conversion from touch of Makazole Mapimpi's try.
When Dewald Duvenage of the Stormers stole the ball at a Kings' scrum, the Stormers raced onto the attack with a long break by EW Viljoen but Chris Cloete won a turnover and Masixole Banda cleared with a long kick.
The Kings won a line-out but Banda kicked the ball to SP Marais who did not kick but ran at the Kings, reaching the half-way line. Robert du Preez threw a brilliant, long pass to Dillyn Leyds on the right wing. Leyds, a most skilful and versatile footballer, ran 50 metres down the touchline, beating three Kings to score in the right corner.
The second try originated with Leyds. Cloete grubbered down into the Stormers' 22. Leyds got the ball and started a counterattack Away went Viljoen who gave to left wing Bjorn Basson. Malcolm Jaer tackled Basson but the Springbok released the ball, got up, grabbed the ball and stretched over for a try in the left corner. Du Preez converted from far out. 12-5.
From the kick-off the Stormers ran again. A penalty gave them an attacking line-out and they advanced with pick-'n-drive. Sikhumbuzo Notshe was close and then Rynhardt Elstadt was over in the left corner. 17-3 after 36 minutes.
Again the Stormers raced back from the kick-off but were penalised just short of the Kings' line.
Early in the second half the Stormers added to their lead when Jaer kicked and the Stormers countered. Dan du Plessis broke and Du Preez was over near the posts. 24-3 after 44 minutes, four tries to none.
The Kings, who had so often kicked, played with ball in hand - wide left and then on their way right when Cronje nudged a grubber through to the touchline. Mapimpi raced to the ball, put out a right hand to pull it in and scored in the right corner, whence Cronje converted. 24-10 after 57 minutes.
Six minutes later Du Preez goaled a simple penalty.
The Kings won a Stormers' line-out and attacked but they lost the ball into the Stormers' in-goal and from there the Stormers ran again. But the Kings came back and won two Stormers' line-outs in succession and only a tackle by Leyds on Kurt Haupt prevented the kings from scoring in the left corner.
Three young players had come on for the Stormers to make their debuts - flank Jaco Coetzee, scrumhalf Justin Phillips and flyhalf/inside centre Damian Willemse. All three of them did well - Coetzee winning a turnover, Phillips scoring and making a try, and Willemse in making good running that led to a try.
When the Kings lost the ball, Marais broke and as he was being tackled gave to Phillips five metres from the Kings' line for a try. 34-10.
The Stormers tapped a penalty, Willemse ran well and gave to Phillips who was tackled just short of the line but popped the ball to Viljoen who scored. Coleman's conversion ended the match.
Man of the Match: There were four Kings players who stood out - Chris Cloete, the turnover King, lock Ruaan Lerm in the line-outs and the slight but speedy duo at the back, Malcolm Jaer and Masixole Banda. But really the Man of the Match needed to come from the Stormers, especially Dillyn Leyds and EW Viljoen amongst the backs and the two props, Ollie Kebble and Frans Malherbe, and both locks - Pieter-Steph du Toit, a tight forward who plays like a loose forward who plays like a back and our choice - Eben Etzebeth, captaining the Stormers for the first time, taking line-out responsibility in himself, tackling and driving forward, time and again, into the Kings' defence.
For Southern Kings:
Tries: Leyds, Basson, Elstadt, Du Preez, Phillips, Viljoen
Cons: Du Preez 2, Coleman 2
Pen: Du Preez
Southern Kings: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Rick Schroeder, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Irne Herbst, 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Schalk Ferreira (captain).
Replacements: 16 Kurt Haupt, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Chris Heiberg, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Johan Steyn, 22 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 23 Berton Klaasen.
Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Chris Van Zyl, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Damian Willemse.
Referee: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
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