CAPE TOWN – That offload by Dillyn Leyds to SP Marais before his try was otherworldly. It was exquisite.
And it was undoubtedly one of the best moments in this stunning game of rugby in front of a delirious Newlands crowd on Saturday.
Why am I starting this article with praise for an offload, if the biggest talking point was the Stormers’ impressive 34-26 win over the mighty Chiefs in a top display of attacking rugby? Because that offload deserves credit. Done.
It was absolutely magical. And it just shows how determined Robbie Fleck and his coaching staff are to keep the Stormers on a 15-man road to the pot of gold.
It all started in the Stormers’ 22 when wing Cheslin Kolbe made a brilliant break and kicked the ball ahead.
Leyds, always up to chase, turned on the gas and chased Kolbe’s kick down before sending that behind-the-back offload (off the ground, by the way) to Marais on his outside to score.
Like I said, that was brilliant, but it was far from the only exciting, dream-like happening in the game.
Now if you didn’t see this match live at Newlands, I feel sorry for you, I really do, because there’s no way I can put that pumping atmosphere and on-field happenings into words. Not at all.
But I’ll try anyway.
Firstly, there was that fight. And it was huge, not only because it was the first piece of real action (it happened in the first few seconds, I should add), but also because of the intensity of that brawl (it actually looked like Cobus Wiese gave more punches there than Eben Etzebeth, and we all know that that doesn’t happen often) showed just how much both teams were, well, in it to win it.
Now Stormers coach Robbie Fleck certainly has a lot to feel proud of. I mean, his team made up for that horrific 60-21 defeat they suffered to the Chiefs in the quarter-final at Newlands last year.
And they did so in style. The way his guys played should also have him smiling about their attacking progress.
There were also individual performances by Fleck’s players that were just plain brilliant.
Kolbe was again a top performer with a number of big, courageous tackles, beautifully sniping runs and just overall fine touches, while Leyds’ offload wasn’t his only fantastic contribution as he also impressed with his running and work-rate again.
Then there was EW Viljoen, who built on his impressive Super Rugby run with clean passes, solid defence and hard running.
Yeah, he slipped a tackle and knocked the ball on once or twice, but the positives far outshone the negatives.
It’s quite difficult to mention only a few players, because the way the hosts performed was downright fantastic, but I think that skipper Siya Kolisi’s Man-of-the-Match efforts also deserve individual praise.
The breakdown battle was brutal and classic, and the Stormers’ defence was once again tremendous.
Yes, the Chiefs scored three tries, but the home team also drove back wave after wave of Chiefs attack with their courageous tackling.
Flyhalf Robert du Preez continued to cleverly mix up his game, and on the night he certainly outplayed Chiefs flyhalf and captain Aaron Cruden, who took a couple of dicey decisions, especially in the crucial last 20 minutes.
Du Preez also nailed a couple of great kicks from the touchline.
In the build-up to the much-anticipated clash, Fleck said that they were going into the match to win it by tries. And they did exactly that.
The Stormers scored four tries to the Chiefs’ three, and the first one by the hosts was a top one.
No 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe produced a brilliant blindside break followed by a smooth step and superb carrying after a Stormers lineout on the Chiefs 22, which led to the hosts setting up a few phases to within metres of the tryline.
Scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage then sent the ball out wide to Notshe, and the way he sprinted to the tryline to finish the move was great.
But then the Chiefs responded with what I thought would be the try of the day as they took the ball through at least six pairs of hands after Damian McKenzie created magic to get them out of own 22.
There were pop passes, a basketball-like pass and some beautiful offloads before the ball reached wing Toni Pulu, who rounded off classic Chiefs play as he ran at an angle to score.
I thought that would have to be the try of the night, but Leyds had other ideas!
Stormers 34 – Tries: Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Siya Kolisi, Robert du Preez, SP Marais. Conversions: Du Preez (4). Penalties: SP Marais (2).
Chiefs 26 – Tries: Toni Pulu (2), James Lowe. Conversion: Aaron Cruden (1). Penalties: Cruden (2), Damian McKenzie (1).
- Independent Online