The DHL Stormers ended any talk or speculation about relegation from Vodacom Super Rugby by beating the Southern Kings 19-11 at a drenched Newlands on Saturday.
The game was fairly close on the scoreboard for most of the way, but then it was always going to be on a sodden field after long periods of torrential downpours earlier in the day.
What was required to win was a strong tight-phase platform and a good kicking game, and that was what the Stormers provided.
They drove strongly in the early stages, which was when they established a bridgehead against their neighbours from Port Elizabeth, with two penalties in the first 10 minutes propelling the hosts into a 6-0 lead that was valuable in the conditions.
As the match progressed so the Kings began to find their feet and fight their way back into it. George Whitehead kicked a penalty after a quarter of an hour to close the deficit to three points, and that was how it stayed until halftime. Whitehead started at flyhalf for the Kings as first choice Demetri Catrakilis was forced to withdraw at the 11th hour with a calf injury.
Considering the conditions, both teams deserve credit for how they tried to play, but the driving maul was always going to be the most likely source of profit when it came to try-scoring. And that was how it proved, with the Stormers effectively wrapping up the match with a quarter of an hour remaining as Deon Fourie dotted down off a rare drive that the Kings couldn’t cope with.
Full marks to the Kings for again showing the character and fighting spirit that has been the hallmark of their play this season. Wimpie van der Walt dotted down off a drive after 73 minutes, and then they stormed straight back onto the attack and were camping on the Stormers’ line in the last minutes of the game.
The speculation about depth in the Kings team, especially at flyhalf, must now be laid to rest after George Whitehead’s calm and controlling game at this vital position – especially in the wet sloppy conditions which demanded a cool head to decide when and where to kick.
The Kings have always had an ‘oversupply’ of loose forwards and try scorer, Wimpie van der Walt is one who has definitely risen to prominence this past season.
Director of rugby, Alan Solomons said; “…there was very little in that game, I think that the game turned on the charge down of Dewald Duvenhage’s kick and they (the Stormers) got a lineout 5 metres from our (Kings) tryline resulting in a try.” “It was a try apiece and really the kicking made a difference,” continued Solomons.
Andries Strauss observed; “In wet games like this when you get a ball and kick it through, you never know what can happen…. [but] we stuck to our game plan tonight and it almost paid off.”
Alan Solomons, when asked if the Kings didn’t play Luke and Demetri as the Kings were ‘afraid’ to play them considering their history with the Stormers, said; “No, that we never concerned ourselves with that, Luke can certainly look after himself and Demetri is a very brave player. They were both bitterly disappointed not to play.”
The Kings have three matches left in this competition, followed by a bye and then the (now) inevitable promotion relegation.
The Kings camp will be hoping that Sykes, Catrakilis and Watson will return from their injuries to put the Kings back at full strength for their return match against the Stormers in Port Elizabeth on 6 July.
With three more local matches left for the Southern Kings time is now ticking away to the promotion relegation matches that they are sure to play against the Lions to determine who will play in Super Rugby in 2014.
The remaining Southern Kings games for 2013 are:
- 29 June 2013: Bulls v Kings – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
- 6 July 2013: Kings v Stormers – Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
- 13 July 2013: Sharks v Kings – Mr Price Kings Park, Durban
- DHL Stormers – Try: Deon Fourie. Conversion: Joe Pietersen. Penalties: Pietersen (4).
- Southern Kings – Try: Wimpie van der Walt. Penalties: George Whitehead (2).