Ruhan Nel of the Stormers and Siya Kolisi of the Sharks (Gallo)
The Stormers took a 17-0 lead in the opening 12 minutes and looked set to win, but were foiled by the Sharks who narrowly won the SA Rainbow Cup opener at Cape Town Stadium.
Red cards to winger Seabelo Senatla (13th minute) and No.8 Willie Engelbrecht (47th minute) gave the hosts little luck and in the end they were beaten 33-30.
Center Ruhan Nel had a chance to snatch a late win for the men in blue with the final play of the match, but that wasn’t because he couldn’t take control of the ball after a skillful grubber Abner van Reenen.
The Sharks were far from their best that day and the Stormers, thanks to their own poor discipline, did fight.
With the return of Pieter-Steph du Toit in a field littered with Springboks, the Stormers were by far the strongest team in the opening rallies and, after an early penalty from Kade Wolhuter, they scored the game’s first try by scrum-half Herschel Jantjies.
When Rikus Pretorius completed the simplest of tries after recovering a break from Wolhuter, the Stormers were seated well and the Sharks were already lowering their heads.
Senatla’s poor judgment, however, turned the game – and Sharks back Aphelele Fassi – on the head.
Fassi had jumped high to challenge an air balloon and Senatla, moving at a serious pace, was crossing it.
The result was a bad fall for Fassi, who landed dangerously on his neck, and referee Jaco Peyper had no choice but to show Senatla a straight red.
Then, a minute later, Englebrecht received the first of his two yellow cards for a high tackle that had more shoulders than arms.
It was the window the Sharks needed to get back into the contest and they did when Thomas du Toit came close to blank range with Bosch adding the extras.
Even with the numbers against them, the Stormers then fought back with two more penalties by Wolhuter, who set up a decent exit.
Then, on a halftime stroke, the Sharks scored their second thanks to hooker Fez Mbatha on the back of a rolling maul.
After an eventful first half that included four tries – two each – it was the Stormers who took a 23-12 lead in the break.
The hosts were against that in the second period when Sharks lock Reniel Hugo marked his team’s third of the afternoon, but the Stormers were close to receiving their knockout blow.
The recoveries after Hugo’s try showed Engelbrecht, for the second time, hitting a Sharks player with a high and dangerous tackle. It was another yellow card offense, which resulted in a red that effectively sealed the fate of the Stormers.
Even though the Sharks were lacking in rhythm, the space they found as a result of the extra man being in the park meant they still had an attack chance.
Hugo went on to complete the Sharks’ next two tries – completing a rare treble for a No.5 forward – and as the Sharks took a 33-23 lead, it seemed like a game over case.
This was not the case.
After Wolhuter fell with what looked like a serious knee injury, the Stormers turned to replacement half-shuttlecock Van Reenen.
With just minutes to go, a cross kick from Van Reenen gave Willemse a try and made it 33-30.
Then, with the final play of the game, Van Reenen kicked a grubber through a rushed Sharks defense. The ball sat perfectly and Nel could have gotten into a dotted line to give the Stormers a sensational late victory.
Instead, he couldn’t control the ball and that was it. It was awfully close, but in truth, the Stormers were their own worst enemies of the day.
Stormers 30 (23)
Essays: Herschel Jantjies, Rikus Pretorius, Damian Willemse
Conversions: Kade Wolhuter (2), Abner van Reenen
Penalties: Wolhuter (3)
Sharks 33 (12)
Tests: Thomas du Toit, Fez Mbatha, Reniel Hugo (3)
Conversions: Bosch (4)