CAPE TOWN - While Stormers coach John Dobson says they were unlucky to lose their Rainbow Cup opener against the Sharks at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, he acknowledged that their “woeful” discipline played a part in the loss.
Leading 17-0 at one stage, it was a game the Stormers never should have lost, but the disruption caused by yellow and red cards took its toll in their 33-30 defeat.
Seabelo Senatla was the first to be sent off after a reckless aerial attempt on Aphelele Fassi. A minute later debutant No 8 Willie Engelbrecht saw the first of his two yellow cards for a high tackle. In the second half, another dangerous tackle meant his second yellow, which resulted in him being sent off with a red in the second half.
“I think we were unlucky to lose it, but we know why we did and it’s our own fault,’ Dobson said after the match.
“It was woeful. I don’t know if we’ve even had a red card before, so to give away two in one game was remarkable. It cost us massively,” Dobson said.
“When we went from 15 men to 13 within minutes, we had to start taking time off the game. We were playing with a nice rhythm and awareness on attack,we were playing with a good energy. We then had to take that energy out.
“I don’t think we ever recovered that energy until those last few minutes. It was a pity because we tried to play a certain brand today and obviously those cards took it away from us. It was disappointing, but it was entirely our own fault.”
A stunning try by Damian Willemse in the last 10 minutes made it a three-point game, and the hosts had the chance to snatch a victory when replacement flyhalf Abner van Reenen put a grubber through the Sharks’ rushing defence.
It went over the try line and bounced favourably for Ruhan Nel, who had a fine outing, to add the finishing touches, but the charging centre didn’t manage to exert control over the ball as he dived to reach it.
Had he scored, the Stormers would have won the game, but it should never had to come down to that one moment and it can in no way be seen as the reason - or even one of the reasons - for them losing the game.
After the match, Dobson said that Nel apologised, something he felt wasn’t necessary.
"He came to apologise. He's got nothing to apologise for," Dobson said.
"I think he saw a guy coming from the right and he thought the ball was going dead. He's really upset about it.
"I think we'd rather go look at other stuff in the game, whether we chased kicks hard enough or whether we worked off the ball enough. He is really upset, but he really has nothing to apologise for."
Herschel Jantjies scores the opening try of the #RainbowCupSA and it's a stunner 👏— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) May 1, 2021
Brilliant hands from Ruhan Nel and Damian Willemse in the build up.
📺 Stream live: https://t.co/0BMWdeEYT3
📲 Match commentary: https://t.co/akr9GYmlPR pic.twitter.com/HExREOHvqA
Dobson also confirmed that they will lose the 29-year-old for a large chunk of the Rainbow Cup as he is set to rejoin the Blitzboks camp as they prepare for the Tokyo Olympics.
"I know some teams have said 'no' to the Sevens, but it's a national cause, and he's only going to get one more chance at an Olympic medal," Dobson said.
"We have agreed to release him to the Sevens and I think we'll have a chat to Neil tomorrow about the timing.
"We want to try and help Ruhan and the Sevens as much as we can, so if we have to release him, we will."
Meanwhile, flyhalf Kade Wolhuter, who started in the Stormers’ coastal clash, confirmed on social media that he will be out for the remainder of the season after tearing his ACL during the game.