Stormers survive the Cheetahs' squall
YOU had to take the Spaghetti Western dust-up in the second half with a pinch of salt, but in the context of this game it provided the Cheetahs with a foot in the door yesterday, writes Liam del Carme at Newlands.
They grew in stature as the game wore on but were just pipped by a side who held on grimly. The Stormers' review this week will have to centre on their inability to make good on all their attacking promise.
To be fair, by the time the dust-up occurred the Cheetahs were already on the road to recovery after finding themselves on the one to perdition for most of the first half. But the yellow card that banished the Stormers' Rynhardt Elstadt to the sin bin further emboldened the visitors.
The Stormers' hard and honest endeavour as ball carriers in the first half and as defenders in the second ultimately earned them the 16-14 victory.
The match came to life in the second half as the Cheetahs returned with renewed vigour. The Stormers' failure to put more daylight between themselves and the Cheetahs by the break meant the visitors still had something to target.
With Heinrich Brussow and Ashley Johnson in the vanguard, the Cheetahs put the Stormers in their crosshairs and brought to their game the continuity that was absent in the first half.
That first half belonged to the hosts.
Flank Siya Kolisi spread himself thin in defence and attack, Andries Bekker made his reach advantage count in the lineout, while Brok Harris, Deon Fourie and Steven Kitshoff got the better of a front-row unit that comes highly recommended. Bekker was every bit the "moving lighthouse" - how revered commentator Bill McLaren once famously described his father, Hennie.
The Stormers' forward unit was as abrasive as it was coherent. When they rumbled forward, they did so in unison. They hit the rucks and mauled with near malevolent intent in the opening 20 minutes. Their ability to exert pressure in contact provided them with the platform from which to launch the rest of their game.
They were adroit at finding the Cheetahs' pressure points and, with the tide slowly but inexorably turning against them, the visitors became increasingly prone to error before the break.
Peter Grant's three penalties banked the pressure the Stormers imposed, but they delivered an infinitely more telling blow in the 24th minute when Eben Etzebeth wriggled over.
His try was only the Stormers' 17th in this campaign and, while only the paltry Lions have scored fewer, the Cape side have found ways in all this year's games bar one to outscore the opposition.
They find ways of getting the job done but they will be judged harshly if their lack of bonus points prejudices them in the knockout stages.
Stormers 16 - Try: Eben Etzebeth. Conversion: Peter Grant. Penalties: Grant (3).
Cheetahs 14 - Tries: Hennie Daniller, Willie le Roux. Conversions: Riaan Smit (2).