Stormers finish 2023 on a high with URC derby win over the Sharks

Springboks flyhalf Manie Libbok kicked the Stormers to victory against the Sharks. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix

Springboks flyhalf Manie Libbok kicked the Stormers to victory against the Sharks. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix

Published Dec 30, 2023


The Stormers finished 2023 in the best possible way, beating the Sharks 16-15 (halftime 10-5) in a pulsating and a drama-filled South African United Rugby Championship derby in Cape Town on Saturday evening.

The win pushed them into sixth place on the URC log, but for the visitors from Durban, the result was not great, despite a commendable effort on the day, as they dropped to 15th place on the log and most likely wondering what more they need to do to beat their Cape foes.

The visitors ran onto the newly laid DHL Stadium pitch without Eben Etzebeth, with the Springbok centurion’s return to Cape Town delayed by a stomach bug. Corne Rahl came into the starting pack with Gerbrandt Grobler on the bench.

Etzebeth was expected to bring a physical edge, but to be fair to the rest of the Sharks team, they did not stand back when the game started. In fact, they showed great appetite for the clash and looked the more eager side in the opening minutes, with several attacks testing a durable and patient Stormers defence.

The KwaZulu-Natal side clearly came to play, but there is one thing about the Capetonians that is unmatched in the local game and that is their intuitive counter-attacks when defending.

The Sharks side showed a willingness to attack, but there was always that turn-over ability from the hosts that was going to impact the flow of the game.

It came 16 minutes in, when lock Adre Smith scored, following a brilliant offload by Ben-Jason Dixon. The visitors had territorial dominance, but a Stormers counter attack gave them good field position before Dixon got the offload away that saw Smith cantering in from 25 meters. Manie Libbok converted for a 7-0 lead.

The ease of that try seemed to rattle the Sharks and two penalties later, the home side had a lineout drive five metres out. They were stopped a metre short and turned over, but more bad news was to follow.

Influential midfielder Ruhan Nel was stretchered off after he twisted a knee in yet another counter attack and was replaced by Jurie Matthee, with the six-two bench call by the home side under scrutiny early. In the reshuffle, Damian Willemse moved to centre and Matthee to fullback.

Libbok extended the lead to 10 points when the visitors’ scrum got nailed by referee AJ Jacobs, who stayed in control of the match throughout, but the Sharks finally got on the score board and what a treat it was when wing Werner Kok scored five minutes before the break.

It was worth the wait for Sharks fans. They won a lineout 40m out and the ball was sent to the backs. Francois Venter found space with a loop around and Curwin Bosch's pass found Kok, who was never going to be stopped as he dived in for a well-taken try. The conversion was wide though, giving the home side a 10-5 lead at the break.

Libbok started the second half with a bad shank to the left in the opening minutes. He redeemed himself two minutes later with a well struck kick from the same area, which extended their lead to eight points after 46 minutes.

A good strike by Bosch cut the lead back to five points a few minutes later. The Stormers’ scrum was pinged for hinging and Bosch kicked a well-taken penalty goal.

Rahl scored after a good maul and when Bosch kicked the conversion, the visitors got the lead for the first time in the match, just shy of the hour mark.

From the restart though, the visitors blundered and got penalised, only for Libbok to kick the hosts back into the lead – 16-15 after 61 minutes.

Stormers prop Ali Vermaak was yellow-carded and with a rash of replacements on for both sides, the last 20 minutes promised an exciting end, and what an end it was.

The Stormers’ scrum had few peers this season and when the Sharks got pinged again, the hosts opted to kick for the corner. Unfortunately, the TMO saw double banking in the ensuing maul and the visitors could get away from the danger zone.

The home side got the upper hand in the closing stages but could not convert again and the final whistle came with the Stormers attacking strongly, but kept out by the visitors, who never stopped trying, resulting in a proper South African derby match.


Stormers 16 (10) – Try: Adre Smith. Conversion: Manie Libbok. Penalties: Libbok (3).

Sharks 15 (5) – Tries: Werner Kok, Corne Rahl. Conversion: Curwin Bosch. Penalty: Bosch.

SA Rugby