Stormers to host Champions Cup playoff after scrappy Stade Francais win

The Stormers’ Manie Libbok goes on the run against Stade Francais. Picture: Dave Winter / INPHO / Shutterstock via Backpagepix

The Stormers’ Manie Libbok goes on the run against Stade Francais. Picture: Dave Winter / INPHO / Shutterstock via Backpagepix

Published Jan 20, 2024


The Stormers' replacements and their overpowering scrum was their saving grace in a scrappy Champions Cup win of 24-20 against Stade Francais in Paris, France on Saturday evening.

A comedy of errors occured at the death when Stade lost two props to yellow cards after devastating scrums by the visitors, and it went to uncontested scrums as the Stormers finally found a way over the tryline to seal the win.

But they almost butchered it, thankfully referee Luke Pearce, who had a night to forget with the whistle, brought them back into striking distance with a penalty after Stade played with 13 players instead of the 12 they were supposed to after the yellow cards in the pack of forwards.

That penalty paved the way for the Cape side to score their fourth try, the vital bonus-point one, via flyhalf Manie Libbok, and they sealed the game with 10 minutes to play thanks to the numerical advantage.

It secured a place in the playoffs of the Champions Cup and the Cape side will host one at the Cape Town Stadium later this year.

After an indifferent first half, where they undid all the hard work with some uncharacteristic errors, it was their turnaround in the second half thanks to the impact of the replacements, most notably former Stade player lock Hendre Stassen, that brought a first victory in Europe this season.

Stassen scored one of the comeback tries, but put his bloodied body on the line at the death to help win a penalty that halted a spirited fightback by the home side.

Stade took the Stormers to the gutters, and it was ugly for the visitors in the icy Stade Jean Bouin, but the visitors’ forwards - more specifically the scrum - came up with the goods in the end.

They were their worst enemies from minute one after Stade kicked off and scored a try within the first minute of play.

After a high kick up field, Stormers fullback Warrick Gelant was secure under the high ball but had no protection when he was tackled and the home side secured the turnover with some great counter-rucking.

They spread the ball down the left and it opened the gap for speedy flanker Andy Timo to go over.

It was a soft try, and so too was the five-pointer after a quick-tap penalty by the home side. They punished the Stormers at the breakdown, questionable at times, but it's an area of their play where John Dobson's side will have to sharpen up.

Their decision-making on the attack too. If it was not for that massive scrum performance in the last quarter, and the impact of Stassen and loose forward Hacjivah Dayimani, things could've resulted in a loss.

But they will be happy with the first European win this season that secured their future in the Champions Cup.

Point scorers

Stormers 24 (10) - Tries: Herschel Jantjies, Ruben van Heerden, Hendre Stassen, Manie Libbok. Conversions: Libbok (2).

Stade Francais 20 (15) - Tries: Andy Timo, Lester Etien, Mathieu Hirigoyen. Conversion: Joris Segonds. Penalty: Segonds.