Stormers lock Eben Etsebeth is tackled by David Havili of the Crusaders in the thrilling encounter at Newlands. Photo: Phando/Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)
If there’s one thing you cannot underplay when it comes to the Crusaders, it’s that it’s never over. But if there’s another the Stormers showed at Newlands last night, it’s that the Crusaders can be beaten - you just need to know how to go about it.

The Stormers didn’t get the win in front of a crowd of 27 653 but they came close in a 19-all Super Rugby thriller.

Going into the Round 14 match, the Crusaders were sitting pretty at the top of the standings, while the Stormers occupied the bottom of the South African conference. The Crusaders’ stance and class alone almost made it an expected mismatch on paper.

The draw didn’t change anything to the Stormers’ situation but it would have done something for the team.

One thing to always watch out for when going up against the Kiwi sides, and the Crusaders in particular, is that fast start and second-half fire.

Last night, the Stormers showed that the Newlands ground was in fact theirs. They showed that they can claim it against a team with a mass following in the Mother City, even though the booing their place-kickers had to face probably relayed a different message. They didn’t give the Crusaders much space to enjoy their “home away from home”.

And they scored a brilliant opening try to underline that. After a line-out on the opposition 22, scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies got a quick pass away, which swiftly travelled through a pair of hands before skipper Siya Kolisi ran onto the ball and sped past outside centre Jack Goodhue and flyhalf Richie Mo’unga to score.

A few promising shows and a Josh Stander penalty later, and the Crusaders finally got on the scoresheet in the 30th minute.

Until then, the Stormers did well to limit the Crusaders’ forward momentum as they drove them back in channel one. Generally, they looked in control, but towards the latter stages of the first half, the Crusaders had more say and got two tries for their efforts.

After a try by Matt Todd, the visitors took the lead with four minutes to go in the opening half (10-12), but it’s the way in which they scored that converted try that showed just why you can never lose focus or get too comfortable against the defending champions.

From a scrum on Stormers five, the ball was sent to Mo’unga, who then managed to get one of his kick-passes away to David Havili despite a tackle, and the fullback then gathered and finished to level the score before Mo’unga’s conversion.

It was quick, it was accurate, and it perfectly illustrated the danger of the Crusaders and just how well Mo’unga can do behind the steering wheel of the classy red and black vehicle.

Early in the second half, the Crusaders struck again with a Matt Todd try.

Shortly afterwards, Stander took the score to 13-19 after failing to connect before that.

And then things got tense.

Replacement flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis added a penalty kick early in the fourth quarter to take them to within three points of the ‘Saders. And it’s after that when the drama happened.

Winger Sevu Reece crossed the try line only for his try to be disallowed, and then Du Plessis got a chance to go for the draw - or the corner - with one minute to go.

They went for points, and they got it.

And while it’s just a draw, it’s a result that can do a lot for the Stormers as they go into their remaining for games, especially mentally.

Their game against the Crusaders was a proper one until the very end.

Now they just need to build on it next week against the Highlanders.

@WynonaLouw


Cape Times