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Stormers beat Sharks in Durban at the death

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sharksrugby.co.za     01 Jun 2014     Getty Images

Without a ball being kicked or a whistle being blown, the Sharks wrapped up the South African Conference and have won the trophy following the Lions’ defeat of the Bulls, which means the Pretoria side cannot catch the Sharks on the SA Conference.

Unfortunately, the conceded their lead just once in the game, and that was in the final play of the game as they remained top of the overall log with a two point lead over the Waratahs.

They made a good start to the game, a great clearance from their half, and then an energetic run off turnover ball that led to a penalty, well-converted by Frans Steyn.

With the Stormers front row somewhat lacking in experience, against a Shark front row with over 300 caps in total, the scrums were always going to be an area to test, and although there was an early penalty, they gained a measure of confidence as the game wore on and never buckled under the pressure.

The Stormers lost Nizaam Carr to a yellow card and Steyn punished them with a second successful penalty but Coleman levelled matters with two penalties for the Stormers as the game followed the scoreboard in terms of advantage.

The kickers traded further penalties with the teams deadlocked and no real advantage for either side before the final five minutes of the first half when the fire in their belly exploded. They mauled the ball up before sending it wide, S’bura Sithole making a great break that got his side over the advantage line, and before the visitors’ defence could realign, nippy scrumhalf Cobus Reinach picked up the ball and darted over, carrying two defenders with him for the opening try of the game and his fifth in an injury-curtailed season.

Frans Steyn maintained his 100% record for the game as he added the two points to give his side a 16-9 lead at the break, striking a mental blow at just the right time, sending the Stormers into the change-room in a decidedly different mood than they would have minutes earlier at 9-all. As it was, the Cell C Sharks took a half-time 16-9 lead and would have grown in confidence following the score.

Coleman struck the first points of the second half with his fourth penalty, but it was quickly cancelled out by Frans Steyn.

Demetri Catrakilis came on after Coleman took a heavy knock attempting a tackle on Frans Steyn and the replacement flyhalf converted a fifth penalty from out wide as the lead was reduced to just four points and the game somewhat hanging in the balance.

Catrakilis added a second penalty and going into the final quarter hour, it was a one point game and all to play for. The defence from both sides was outstanding with some massive hits delivered as both sides went in search of the win.

But the defences held strong until that disappointing last move of the game when the visitors managed to convert an opportunity to win.

Bismarck du Plessis said afterwards: “Our discipline let ourselves, down, we tried hard but things didn’t go our way. The set-pieces didn’t go according to plan.”

Duane Vermeulen, the Stormers captain added, “ We got stick in and great to see the guys performing and giving it 120%. It was nice to get our first away win of the season.”