Ill-disciplined and a late blunder by Ruhan Nel saw the Stormers lose their first competitive match at Cape Town Stadium to the Sharks on Saturday.
With wing Seabelo Senatla and No.8 Willie Engelbrecht both sent off – Senatla with a straight red card after taking out the feet from under Aphelele Fassi in an aerial duel and Engelbrecht getting two controversial yellow cards for high tackles – the Stormers let slip a 23-7 lead shortly before half time to go down 33-30.
They had an opportunity to steal the win with the last move of the game, but Nel missed the ball with his in-goal dive on replacement Abner van Reenen’s grubber.
Of Nel’s blunder, coach John Dobson says: “Ruhan came to apologise – he’s got nothing to apologise for, he saw a guy coming from the right and he thought the ball was going dead. He’s really upset about it.”
Still, the Stormers would have been happy with the way they started their Rainbow Cup SA campaign, before things fell apart in the second half.
After an early Kade Wolhuter penalty conversion, it was Nel who broke the Sharks’ line before offloading to Damian Willemse on his inside.
The hosts then stormed ahead when Willemse found Herschel Jantjies, who ran in the first try of the match to make it 10-0 in the seventh minute.
Five minutes later, Wolhuter broke the line and offloaded to Rikus Pretorius for their second try (17-0).
From the restart, Jantjies launched a high box kick and Senatla gave chase. His challenge then saw him red-carded and with Engelbrecht getting his first yellow card soon afterwards, the game turned on its head.
The Sharks then scored their first try from a lineout move via a deserving Thomas du Toit.
Following two penalty conversions from Wolhuter, the Durbanites scored from the exact same scenario two minutes before the break via Fez Mbatha to make it 23-12.
It was all about the Sharks in the second half, with lock Reniel Hugo scoring a six-minute hattrick – his first try in the 47th minute coming from a quick tap, his second a good run-in and his third dotted down from close quarters after a break from scrumhalf Grant Williams.
With Engelbrecht getting his marching order in the build-up to the first try, the scoreboard read 33-23 after Hugo’s triple blow.
The hosts gave themselves a glimmer of hope with seven minutes to go when Edwill van der Merwe tapped down Van Reenen’s cross kick in goal for Willemse to score (33-30).
Pushing hard for a last-minute winner, Nel’s diving effort on Van Reenen’s grubber just missed the ball.