Stormers self-destruct in nightmare Cardiff finish to lose four in a row

Stormers centre Ruhan Nel on his way to the tryline against Cardiff. Picture: Ashley Crowden / INPHO / Shutterstock via Backpagepix

Stormers centre Ruhan Nel on his way to the tryline against Cardiff. Picture: Ashley Crowden / INPHO / Shutterstock via Backpagepix

Published Nov 25, 2023


If Stormers fans don’t want to endure continuing nightmares about their favourite rugby team, then they should avoid watching the last 15 minutes of Friday night’s United Rugby Championship clash against Cardiff.

Coach John Dobson would have wondered how his side conspired to do almost everything wrong in those closing stages, and it eventually cost them dearly as replacement tighthead prop Rhys Litterick barged over after the hooter to claim a 31-24 triumph for the hosts.

It was such a different picture in the first half as the Capetonians led 14-0 in as many minutes, following tries by André-Hugo Venter and Ruhan Nel, as the visitors looked well on their way to ending their four-week tour on a high after three defeats in a row.

But once Cardiff flyhalf Tinus de Beer – formerly of Griquas and Pumas – slotted a penalty to level the scores at 24-24, it all went downhill for the Stormers.

They lost their composure entirely, with replacement fullback Warrick Gelant again one of the main culprits as he lost the ball in contact a few times – and once even without a Cardiff defender close to him.

Classy inside centre Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu also seemed to catch the Stormers virus, coughing up possession and then missing touch from a penalty – which was a strange decision by the Cape side as the No 12 had the range to slot a 45-metre kick at goal to win the game.

Then with three minutes to go, young lock Connor Evans was yellow-carded for a dangerous ruck clean-out on Cardiff opposite number Josh Turnbull, but centre Ben Thomas missed his shot at goal.

The knockout punch for the Stormers arrived soon enough as Clayton Blommetjies fumbled the ball inside his 22, and Cardiff took the ball through the phases from the scrum until Litterick got the ball over the line.

It should really not have come to that, though, as captain Brok Harris – in his 400th first-class game – led the charge in the scrums as the Stormers dotted down twice in 13 minutes.

Hooker Venter opened the scoring off a driving maul, and then centre Nel pounced after another lineout drive was stopped.

Cardiff hit back through touchdowns by Gabriel Hamer-Webb and captain Liam Belcher, but a Feinberg-Mngomezulu penalty secured a 17-14 halftime lead for the visitors.

But the Stormers played like it was a trial game instead of a vital URC encounter that they needed to win to break their tour duck.

The way they kept on trying risky options and offloads under pressure defied belief, while their one-on-one defence was also disappointing as they missed too many tackles.

Giant Cardiff wing Mason Grady sparked the second-half comeback after Gelant had created Nel’s second try with a lovely dummy and offload.

The No 11, who played a major role in Belcher’s five-pointer, burst through the middle of a lineout in a clever move to reduce the deficit to three points at 24-21.

Then De Beer’s penalty levelled things up, and the nightmare finish ensured the Stormers suffered their fourth successive defeat in Europe, and will now have to pick up the pieces against Zebre in Stellenbosch next Saturday.


Cardiff 31 – Tries: Gabriel Hamer-Webb, Liam Belcher, Mason Grady, Rhys Litterick. Conversions: Tinus de Beer (4). Penalty: De Beer (1).

Stormers 24 – Tries: André-Hugo Venter, Ruhan Nel (2). Conversions: Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (3). Penalty: Feinberg-Mngomezulu (1).