The Cell C Sharks lost our first Vodacom Super Rugby match of the season after going down 16-11 to the DHL Stormers at JONSSON KINGS PARK on Saturday evening.
This was the first derby match for the Cell C Sharks while the DHL Stormers have yet to meet opposition that isn’t from South Africa and somehow the visitors conjured a win in a real arm-wrestle of a match where pressure counted and mistakes were punished.
It was always going to be hotly contested and three yellow cards and just two tries in total tells a story of a match approaching the tension and demands of a test match.
The DHL Stormers scored early on, funny enough only their second try of the season, as the Cell C Sharks were under pressure to move the ball and an intercept led to the visitors taking the early lead after having spent most of the opening minutes on defence.
It took well over 10 minutes before the first scrum of the game was awarded, but the DHL Stormers front row went down and they lost their own scrum put-in when referee Jaco Peyper awarded us the penalty which Robert du Preez had no trouble slotting over.
But following repeated infringements, the Cell C Sharks found ourselves on a team warning and defending our line, Lukhanyo Am was deemed to be off-sides and given his marching orders at the conclusion of the first quarter of the game.
After failing with two penalty shots at goal, SP Marais finally converted to restore his team’s seven point lead, while Aphelele Fassi had to leave the field injured, replaced by Rhyno Smith, himself a late replacement for Curwin Bosch who didn’t come through the warm-up.
When Lukhanyo Am did return, just three points had been conceded but we would face further disadvantage when Akker van der Merwe was carded just before half-time and SP Marais took the DHL Stormers lead to 10.
It had not been a productive half – a rather frustrating one in fact – that allowed the DHL Stormers to take a 13-3 lead into the break.
Despite being a man down, it was the Cell C Sharks who put together a wonderfully attacking passage of play, the passes stuck and the breakdowns went to plan as we took possession from our 22 at the kick-off and worked our way patiently downfield before Am was sent the perfect pass to crash over.
A third yellow card was issued, this time for the DHL Stormers after Makazole Mapimpi was tackled around the neck enroute to the tryline. Akker van der Merwe returned to the field at the same time and we made the advantage count with a penalty to reduce the DHL Stormers lead to just two points with half an hour of the game remaining.
It took 15 minutes of tooing and froing on attack and defence as neither side was able to make possession count, before the DHL Stormers were awarded a penalty right in front and made no mistake with the conversion for a five point lead.
It was the last points in a low-scoring match that was all about huge intensity and whoever could forced the advantage in a game of very few chances.
Cell C Sharks captain admitted afterwards that discipline had cost his team, saying, “We’re very disappointed, we needed to get a win and our discipline and game management was disappointing; you can’t win a game with two yellow cards and the number of penalties we conceded.
“The DHL Stormers played well, all credit to them, but we did frustrate ourselves. A lot of improvement is needed.”