DHL Stormers captain Deon Fourie produced a magnificent individual effort after breaking off a forward drive to score the try that made sure his team won a testosterone-driven Vodacom Super Rugby coastal derby against the Southern Kings at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee predicted during the week that the Southern Kings would be up for the challenge and he was proved correct as his men struggled to overcome the gutsy hosts.
However they were never headed after taking the lead when Fourie scored off a lineout drive shortly before halftime, and then it was Fourie who wrapped up the 24-12 win shortly before the end.
Once again the Kings deserve immense credit for their defensive effort.
The Stormers were stronger at forward and enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, but they battled to overcome the aggressive defensive line of a Kings team that you could say gave the Cape Town based side a taste of their own medicine for most of the 80 minutes.
That was one positive for the Kings. Another was that again a large crowd filed into the stadium, certainly a lot bigger than the one that watched the Cheetahs’ match against the Blues earlier in the afternoon.
As the game in Port Elizabeth had nothing riding on it other than pride for the two sides, while the one in Bloemfontein was being hosted by supposedly the best team in the Cheetahs’ history, that is yet another strike in favour of the Kings’ continued participation in the competition.
Of course, the result of the Bloemfontein game, won by the Cheetahs, took away the log interest for the Stormers.
Their flickering hopes of still making the play-offs were extinguished by the Cheetahs’ win, but that did not deflect from the Stormers’ focus.
They certainly threw everything into the battle in a match played in a feisty atmosphere and with both teams frequently getting involved in bouts of fisticuffs.
The Stormers always looked the stronger team, and frequently looked like they might draw away on the scoreboard, only for the Kings to confound that impression by hanging in.
And that was the way it stayed until the last minutes, which was when Fourie barged his way across 20 metres of ground and through quite a few defenders to score the try that put the result beyond doubt.
It was a fitting end for Fourie, as he was brilliant on the night, with his contesting at the gainline and allround busy performance being one of the differences between the teams.
The Stormers were also stronger in the scrums, but there weren’t that many set-pieces in the game, which helped the Kings.
The Stormers weren’t helped in the first half by two inaccurate lineouts when the opportunity had been set up on the corner flag through penalties, but they did finally get it right on the stroke of halftime, with Fourie dotting down as his forward swarmed over the line.
That made the score at the break 11-9 to the Stormers, after they had trailed for most of the first half.
Demetri Catrakilis kicked two penalties to make it 6-0 to the hosts in the first 10 minutes, and up to that point the Kings looked the stronger team. But Elton Jantjies kicked his first points of the season for the Stormers by slotting a penalty in the 13th minute, and then came some strong drives from the Stormers, and that was the turning point.
The Kings weren’t helped by the yellow-carding of prop Kevin Buys for a late tackle on Bryan Habana.
It looked a marginal call, but then the Kings were guilty of yellow-card offences later, and were repeatedly warned by referee Lourens van der Merwe, who frankly didn’t have his best game with the whistle as he struggled to control proceedings.
The Kings never looked likely to score a try, and weren’t helped by their heavy reliance on the boot of Catrakilis for their points, as it meant they never had the ambition to set up the lineout drives from the penalties they got in the first half.
The Kings have a good conversion rate from driving mauls this season – better than the Stormers – and it was really the only way they were ever going to get a five pointer.
And that was what they needed once Jantjies had kicked a penalty to make it 17-12 going into the last quarter of an hour.
There shouldn’t have been too much doubt about the result when that happened, and although the crowd in Port Elizabeth seemed to really enjoy it, it wasn’t a memorable game and for those watching on television must have been a bit like watching paint dry.
Southern Kings – Penalties: Demetri Catrakilis (4).
DHL Stormers – Tries: Deon Fourie (2). Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalties: Jantjies (3), Joe Pietersen.