The Stormers held out in the last two minutes for a 25-19 win over the Reds at Newlands on Saturday.
Two top, determined, motivated teams met at Newlands on a cool afternoon of black southeaster with even a bit of drizzle. It was an unpredictable match that was nearly turned on its head in the tense last two minutes.
Whichever side you were supporting, those last two minutes would have had you on edge, biting whatever could be bitten. For Stormers people, the two minutes were agonising slow; for Queenslanders, the two minutes flew past at frustrating speed.
It was a special day at Newlands. Across the railway line Australia and South Africa were locked in a cricket battle with a big crowd present. This - to rugby folk - side of the railway line South Africans and Australians were locked in a rugby battle with 17 390 people to watch it. Newlands was a place of absorbing sporting activity.
It was a match that seemed to be becoming predictable when the Stormers led 18-0 after half an hour, but then it became anything but predictable as in the next 50 minutes, the pressurised Reds scored 19 points to seven, and none of their 19 points was predictable
The Stormers, who have had health issues of late were forced to make another change when JJ Engelbrecht, right wing, withdrew. Craig Barry was moved from fullback to the wing, and George Whitehead, usually a flyhalf, was brought into fullback with young Joshua Stander brought onto the bench. Then they suffered a major blow in the match when scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage was injured and replaced by Justin Phillips.
The Reds showed no ill effects from their crazy itinerary - Brisbane - Buenos Aires - Rio - London - Cape Town with a day's delay while they got yellow fever injections before being allowed into South Africa.
They played as you would expect a top, ambitious, well organised side to play. They were not for giving up.
Damian Willemse kicked off and scored the first points when Duncan Paia’aua went offside. 3-0 after 2 minutes.
The next score started with one of those horrid scrumhalf kicks that so spoil the modern game. Ben Lucas kicked down to the Stormers' 22. The Stormers started running. Raymond Rhule looked unsure and nervous and then suddenly raced on an outside gap and gave to EW Viljoen who got away from Samu Kerevi and raced down the left touchline. He played inside to Duvenage who raced over for a try in the left corner. It was wonderful counterattack. 8-0 after 15 minutes.
Rhule won a Whitehead kick and the Stormers bashed at the defence till Viljoen was out near the cornerpost.
The Stormers bashed. Willemse of the dancing feet was close, and then from a metre or so out, Wilco Louw powered over for a try. Willemse decorated it with a conversion from touch. 15-0 after 25 minutes.
Where the forwards could get into conflict, they did. They contested post-tackles, line-outs and scrums. The Reds had scrum problems, They were penalised four times at scrums to the once of the Stormers.
When Paia’aua played Willemse without the ball. Willemse quickly recovered from hurt and goaled the penalty. 18-0 after 31 minutes.
The situation seemed to galvanise the Reds. For the only time in the match, they won a Stormers' line-out after they robbed Pieter-Stef du Toit of the ball he had caught. The Reds went right. Jono Lance broke inside Siya Kolisi and gave to big Caleb Timu charging on his right. Timu burst over for a try at the posts. Lance converted and it was 18-7 after 36 minutes. 44 minutes to play. There was some foreboding in the Stormers' camp.
Five playing minutes after this try, the Reds scored again. They kicked off for the second half. The Stormers caught the ball and a ruck formed with the ball on the Stormers side. Replacement scrumhalf Phillips stood upright at the ball, playing sentry and surveying the deployments around him. Then he bent, picked up the ball and decided to kick it himself. Adam Korczyk charged the kick down and the ball went skidding off to the Stormers' line. The Stormers tried fighting back but were penalised. Lucas took a tap kick and went for the line where hooker Alex Mafi scored. 18-14 after 42 minutes. The Reds had scored 14 points in five playing minutes and there were still 38 minutes to play.
The forboding in the Stormers' camp grew fearsome.
But the Stormers scored next.
There was a scrum on their right and the referee was to penalise the Reds again but played advantage. The Stormers ran from near the half-way line, and Barry sent a strong grubber downfield to the left. Rhule raced after it, got the generously bouncing ball and scored. 25-14 with 26 minutes to play.
Both sides were fully aware of the situation and carried on battling each other.
The clock had got to 79 minutes when suddenly, five metres from his own goal, Filipo Daugunu broke from a scrum. He went clean through inside Viljoen and raced downfield. He swerved past Rhule who did not get close to him, was too fast for Whitehead and scored with only Du Toit chasing him. The conversion was missed but there was time for the kick-off with the score 25-19 and victory possible.
From the kick-off, Rhule missed tackling Aidan Toua who raced downfield. Near half-way, the Stormers were penalised and the next thing they were defending a line-out six metres from their line. A maul formed. The Stormers repelled it and, when it became unplayable, were awarded possession. But it was much better than possession for the match was over.
Man of the Match: There were Reds like Jono Lance, James Slipper, Aidan Toua, Caleb Timu and James slipper and candidates such as Pieter-Steph du Toit, Wilco Louw, Damian de Allende and our choice - again - Damian Willemse who attacks and defends, kicks for goal and out of hand and does it wall with delicious skill.
Tries: Duvenage, Louw, Rhule
Cons: Willemse 2
Pens: Willemse 2
Tries: Timu, Mafi, Daugunu
Cons: Lance 2
Stormers: 15 George Whitehead, 14 Craig Barry, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian De Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Jacobus Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Dean Muir, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Kobus van Dyk, 21 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 22 Justin Phillips, 23 Joshua Stander.
Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Caleb Timu, 7 Adam Korczyk, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 James Slipper (captain).
Replacements: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Jean-Pierre Smith, 18 Sef Fa'agase, 19 Harry Hockings, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Eto Nabuli.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
TMO: Christie du Preez (South Africa)