Zestful Lions tame Stormers at Cape Town Stadium
The Lions spoiled the Stormers' delayed United Rugby Championship (URC) homecoming with a crushing 37-19 win at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.
The visitors, who held a 13-12 lead at the break, played with zeal and growing confidence and thwarted their much-fancied but error-ridden hosts at every turn.
This was both teams' last match of what must have felt like an interminable year and it was the hosts who looked like they were most in need of time off.
The Stormers, playing at home for the first time in this competition, lacked urgency and purpose as they failed to get traction in the primary phases, while they were denied gain line momentum by lion-hearted defence.
Inventive and full of enterprise at the back the Lions posed equally uncomfortable questions of the Stormers upfront. Vincent Tshituka and Burger Odendaal seemed to cover every blade of grass, Wandisile Simelane stepped and scythed with telling effect, while Fred Zeilinga delivered a composed display at flyhalf.
The Lions showed some encouraging signs on their four-week tour of the northern hemisphere but if there were improvements from their dire Currie Cup earlier this year, they would have been desperate to show it against their compatriots.
They did that with aplomb against a Stormers team that opted not to deploy all their heavy Bok artillery for the this match and they were hit by wing Sergeal Petersen's eleventh-hour withdrawal.
The hosts lacked cohesion and rhythm and were beset by elementary errors.
Defensive errors, even off first phase also served to undermine the home team.
Odendaal was typically wholehearted in the bulk of his endeavours and when he did not fully command the attention of the Stormers defence he made timely interventions in defence. He thwarted a Stormers attack from an attacking scrum close to the Lions' tryline and not too long after a deft pass gave the visitors' impetus in attack.
The always-on-the-move Tshituka used that momentum by charging through midfield before offloading a long pass to Francke Horn who raced in unchallenged.
The Stormers then invited unnecessary scrutiny from the referee but their errant ways soon rubbed off on the Lions.
The hosts chirped referee Marius van der Westhuizen after conceding a scrum penalty and after being marched back 10m the penalty became kickable for Zeilinga. He duly raised the flag and soon after the hosts again caught the ref's attention when captain Salmaan Moerat tackled an opponent in the process of collecting the still-aerial restart.
The Lions also had a man in the bin soon after, however, when replacement forward Willem Alberts knocked Evan Roos back in a no-arms collision.
Matters were compounded for the visitors when debutant Edwill van der Merwe fleetingly grabbed Senatla's hair and he too was banished to the bin.
With two men in the bin, the Lions could not plug all the holes and it presented the Stormers something to hold on to.
Crucially, however, the Lions played with renewed vigour after the break.
Stormers (19) - Tries: Stefan Ungerer, Seabelo Senatla, Andre-Hugo Venter. Conversions: Manie Libbok, Tim Swiel.
Lions (37) - Tries: Francke Horn (2), Andre Warner, Vincent Tshituka. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (4). Penalties: Zeilinga (3).