Rugby news from Western Province:
Gritty DHL Stormers aiming higher:
Having shown plenty of grit and determination to claim narrow wins in two consecutive South African derbies, the DHL Stormers head into their bye week with the knowledge that they can lift their performance further.
Following their last-gasp win against Emirates Lions at DHL Newlands last week, the DHL Stormers travelled to Durban and came away with a hard-fought 16-11 victory in tricky conditions against a previously unbeaten Cell C Sharks side on Saturday.
That means that they go into their bye with two wins out of the three South African derbies that they started their campaign with.
Neither of those wins came easy and Head Coach Robbie Fleck said that while he was encouraged with the determination and maturity his side has shown in the last two weeks to get over the line in tough circumstances, the best part is that they know that they can still lift their performance significantly.
“What it is showing is that the team has got character, we know that there is a lot to improve on where we can get better, that is the exciting part.
“To win these close games gives us a bit of mental capacity and grit. The Cell C Sharks definitely started to play better in the second half, but we handled it.
“The team is showing a bit of maturity at the moment, which is great under the pressure we have been under. We will take those wins, we know that we can only get better, so we are looking forward to that,” he said.
Fleck was pleased with the way his team stuck to their tactical plan in the slippery conditions against a physical Cell C Sharks outfit, with the forward pack in particular standing up to be counted.
“I think the boys did exceptionally well in terms of sticking to the tactics, we were smart in the way we played. It wasn’t pretty but it was smart and we put them under pressure, built that lead and defended it, we’ll take that.
“I felt our pack played really well, our set-piece was excellent, from our own line-outs, to scrums and contesting their line-outs, we really put them under pressure and that was part of the plan,” he said.
Considering their opening loss to the Vodacom Bulls, Fleck was happy with the way his team bounced back, but is also looking forward to seeing them improve further as the season progresses.
“After that Vodacom Bulls loss we were really staring at it, but to come back with two wins and make it two out of three is not a bad start for us.
“There is still a lot that we can work on, but it is exciting for us because we can only get better,” he added.
DHL Stormers sink Sharks in Durban:
The DHL Stormers showed plenty of heart to claim a hard-fought 16-11 victory against Cell C Sharks in Durban on Saturday.
It was the second consecutive South African derby win for the DHL Stormers, as they handed the Kwa-Zulu Natal side their first defeat of the season.
The teams scored a try apiece in slippery conditions, but the DHL Stormers were never behind in a composed performance under pressure.
The DHL Stormers started the game with real intent and got in the faces of the opposition early on which saw fullback Damian Willemse rush up and claim an intercept to go in for what would be the only try of the first half.
The Cell C Sharks responded with a penalty from flyhalf Robert du Preez, but those would be their only points before half-time as the DHL Stormers took control.
Some clever kicking and use of the blindside saw the DHL Stormers launch three attacking drives in the opposition 22. The end result was a yellow card for Cell C Sharks centre Lukhanyo Am, after his team had strayed offsides one time too many.
The DHL Stormers kept the pressure on and were playing all of their rugby in Cell C Sharks territory, but SP Marais missed two shots at goal before slotting his third and fourth attempts.
The home side were down to 14 men again just before half-time, with hooker Akker van der Merwe shown a yellow card as the DHL Stormers took a 13-3 advantage into the break.
The Cell C Sharks struck first in the second half with a try from Am out wide and the DHL Stormers were struck a further blow soon afterwards when centre Dan du Plessis was shown a yellow card for a high tackle.
A second penalty from Du Preez reduced the DHL Stormers lead to 13-11, leaving the match finely poised with 30 minutes left to play.
With Du Plessis back on the pitch the DHL Stormers showed good patience and discipline on attack as they played the game in opposition territory, with the reward eventually coming via another Marais penalty.
With the pressure on in the final stages, the DHL Stormers showed great composure to close the game out and claim the win. They will have a bye next week and then face the Jaguares at DHL Newlands on Friday, March 15.
For DHL Stormers:
Pens: Marais 3
For Cell C Sharks:
Pens: Du Preez 2
DHL Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 SP Marais, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Juarno Augustus, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Ruhan Nel, 23 Dillyn Leyds.
Cell C Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Hyron Andrews, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van Merwe, Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Phendulani Buthelezi, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Rhyno Smith.