John Dobson praises Stormers’ character as Lions miss out on URC playoffs

Powerful loose forward Evan Roos scored a superb try for the Stormers against the Lions yesterday. Photo: BackpagePix

Powerful loose forward Evan Roos scored a superb try for the Stormers against the Lions yesterday. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 2, 2024


It was an epic South African derby that could not even be spoiled by a red card, but unfortunately there had to be a loser.

The Stormers doused the Champions Cup qualification hopes of the Lions after a converted try at the death secured a 29-24 United Rugby Championship victory at Cape Town Stadium yesterday, fifth place on the log (59 points) and a quarter-final spot, where they will take on Glasgow in Scotland next Saturday.

The losing bonus point meant that the Johannesburg side initially moved up to eighth on the URC log and in a quarter-final position, after Benetton thrashed Edinburgh 31-6 yesterday to move up to sixth place on 54 points.

For the Lions (50 points) to stay eighth, they needed the Ospreys – who were on 45 – to miss out on a four-try bonus-point victory over Cardiff last night, as five log points would take the Ospreys level with the Lions.

But it was heart-break for coach Ivan van Rooyen’s team as the Ospreys pulled off a 33-29 bonus-point victory in Cardiff to move up to 50 and record 10 wins compared to the Lions’ nine – and overall victories is the first tie-breaker for the log standings, followed by points difference, so the Johannesburg side slid down to ninth and out of the playoffs.

Stormers coach John Dobson will be a happy man as they played for 30 minutes with 14 men against the Lions yesterday, after wing Angelo Davids received a red card for a dangerous high tackle on flyhalf Sanele Nohamba.

But in the immediate aftermath of the tackle, a silly push on Davids by replacement Marius Louw saw the Lions centre being sent to the sin-bin as well with a yellow card.

It was unnecessary, and in those 10 minutes with 14 players on each side, the Stormers scored a converted try to take the lead.

There were quite a few brilliant tackles – none better, though, than the 39-year-old Brok Harris decking Lions wing Edwill van der Merwe after he was initially ankle-tapped by Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, and the latter recovering to shove the big No 8 Francke Horn over the touchline for a Stormers throw-in.

At the resulting throw-in, the lineout was lost – but still, the Stormers defended with everything they had to safeguard their tryline.

“It feels like a season of near-misses, and the same today (yesterday),” Lions mentor Van Rooyen said after the match.

“But I am immensely proud of the effort and the fight. We have really grown a lot as a team. Hopefully, we are not short of a few points going through.”

Both sides scored some brilliant tries, but it’s the try of Roos in the absence of Louw, where he burst through a couple of grabbing Lions arms to dive in under the sticks that turned the game in his side’s favour.

The visitors couldn’t make a 21-12 halftime lead count, and it came back to bite them in the end.

“It was very tough,” Dobson said.

“The Lions were highly motivated, and you could see the disappointment at the end. Our character, you could see the team has buckets of that. We could’ve done better with some things.

“But when Brokkie (Harris) makes a tackle in the corner, it’s just extraordinary. My overall sentiment is very proud.

“We would’ve loved to say top four for three seasons, but top five in the URC – this has been a tough season.

“It is a nice way to finish it like this.”


Stormers 29 – Tries: André-Hugo Venter, Angelo Davids, Evan Roos, Adré Smith. Conversions: Manie Libbok (3). Penalty: Libbok (1).

Lions 24 – Tries: Francke Horn, JC Pretorius. Conversion: Jordan Hendrikse (1). Penalties: Hendrikse (4).

URC Quarter-Finals (SA Times)

Friday June 7 – 8.35pm: Munster v Ospreys, Thomond Park, Limerick

Saturday June 8 – 3.30pm: Bulls v Benetton, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria.

6pm: Leinster v Ulster, Aviva Stadium, Dublin.

8.35pm: Glasgow v Stormers, Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow