The Stormers produced a hard-earned 19-11 win over the Southern Kings in near monsoon conditions at Newlands on Saturday.
It was a much-needed win for a Stormers that will go into the June break knowing they are out of the Super Rugby play-off race.
The Western Cape is the wettest part of South Africa in winter and the wettest of the wet is Newlands, where rugby is played willy-nilly. The rain arrived during the night and there is even heavier rain to come on Sunday, so the forecasters say. There was an icy wind to go with the icy rain and the occasional roll of thunder to tell people to stay at home. Over 28 000 tickets had been sold for the match; 10 451 stoics arrived at the ground where it was cold.
With each downpour there was water on the field for the players to splash in, well drained though Newlands is. The swirling wind made life harder for the players. The Stormers, playing from north to south, had the benefit of the weather in the first half and led 6-3 at the break. They played into the weather in the second half and won it 13-8.
There were just two tries, both from mauls off five-metre line-outs and it was the Kings who actually had the better chance to score. Not that they deserved to win, for they kicked too often and too carelessly. The Stormers tried to run but the penchant of the inside centre to cut back and try to bash through a brick wall, their inclination to go into tackles too upright and the number of times that somebody other than the flyhalf, mostly a tight forward, got the pass from the scrumhalf militated against the development of tries, and this is true even if the weather is not a hazard.
George Whitehead who played the whole match at flyhalf for the Kings, a position he is used to, and not at fullback, a position he has been used in this year, played all 80 minutes at flyhalf while Dimitri Catrakelis sat on the bench. Whitehead conceded the first penalty of the match at a tackle and Joe Pietersen goaled. 3-0 after 3 minutes.
Andries Strauss went offside at a ruck. 6-0 after 9 minutes.
When Deon Fourie was offside, Whitehead goaled. 6-3 after 15 minutes, which was also the half-time score.
The Kings kicked a great deal on Gio Aplon and he was up to it, leaping and catching. Pietersen was much less successful. The Kings had the best attack of the match when Pietersen knocked on a long way and the visitors attacked. It came to nought when Strauss grubbered to the line and, despite pressure, the Stormers weathered the attack.
The best running in the whole match came from Bryan Habana on three occasions when he counterattacked from kicks. His skill and work rate are exceptional.
The mauls in the match were interesting. The Stormers have been so good at them and yet the Kings managed them with ease. In fact the Kings' mauls were better than the Stormers' mauls.
Early in the second half, the Kings put into a scrum and the Stormers destroyed them. The Kings were penalised. 9-3 after 47 minutes.
When Pietersen misjudged the flight of a downfield kick, it bounced past him into in-goal where he just got to the ball first as he and Ronnie Cooke dived for the ball. Pietersen then dropped out on the full and it was the Kings' turn to attack, going through nine phases before De Kock Steenkamp was offside. 9-6 after 54 minutes.
The Stormers put on pressure and Fourie charged down Strauss's clearing kick. David Bulbring was penalised at a tackle. 12-6 after 57 minutes.
Then the Stormers had some jam on their bread. Dewaldt Duvenage, on for Louis Schreuder, kicked across the field from right to left and as the ball travelled low a Kings' hand touched it. This gave the Stormers a line-out six metres from the Kings' line. This time the Stormers got the maul working and Fourie was the one who fell to ground for the try. Pietersen converted from far out into the unhelpful wind. 19-6 after 64 minutes.
Steven Kitshoff was penalised for being just a little offside when a high kick bounced off Jean de Villiers's shoulder. Whitehead kicked out brilliantly, five metres from the Stormers' line. They mauled and Philip van der Walt fell to ground for the try. 19-11 with 7 minutes to play.
Habana got a quick throw-in wrong and it ended up with Gary van Aswegen in the Stormers' in-goal. The Kings pounced and forced a five-metre scrum. They mauled but were resisted. The siren sounded. The Stormers were penalised. The Kings tapped and bashed. A maul formed, the ball became unplayable and the referee blew it up and then blew the final whistle.
If they had kicked a goal from one of those penalties they would have lost but would have got a bonus point. Instead they went for the try. If they had got it, they would still have lost but would have had a bonus point. Instead they left with nothing.
Man of the Match: Hyperactive, fearless Deon Fourie. Is there a player who gets through more work in a rugby match?
For the Stormers:
Pens: Pietersen 4
For the Southern Kings:
Try: Van der Walt
Pens: Whitehead 2
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Deon Fourie, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Gerbrandt Grobler, 19 Don Armand, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Southern Kings: 15 SP Marais, 14 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Andries Strauss (captain), 11 Marcello Sampson, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Nicolas Vergallo, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Darron Nell, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Hannes Franklin, 17 Grant Kemp, 18 Rynier Bernado, 19 Devin Oosthuizen, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Shane Gates, 22 Daniel Adonga.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Sindile Mayende (South Africa),Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
TMO: Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)