CAPE TOWN, April 13 (Reuters) - A perfect kicking display from Stormers fullback Joe Pietersen kept his side’s Super Rugby hopes alive with a 22-15 victory over the Sharks at Newlands on Saturday.
Pietersen booted 17 points to give the Cape-based side their third victory of the season and keep them in touch with the play-off places.
“We have been hit hard by injuries this season but it is amazing to see every guy that comes in take the step up,” Stormers captain Jean de Villiers told a TV interview after the game.
”The combination of our loose trio [Duane Vermuelen, Siya Kolisi and Michael Rhodes] was fantastic, but everybody played well.
“In Super Rugby you need to perform every week or you will be found wanting. I‘m glad we could pick it up tonight against a very good Sharks outfit.”
Predictably it was a South African derby that was decided with forward muscle rather than back finesse and Pietersen capitalised on the pressure his side created inside the Sharks half.
Both these sides have now scored just 13 tries in their seven Super Rugby fixtures this season and so perhaps this was always going to be a game decided by the boot.
The Stormers were dominant in the set-pieces in the first half, a much improved performance on their last home fixture against the Crusaders a fortnight ago when it was an area of their play that arguably cost them a win.
This time they had plenty of front-foot ball and the pressure took its toll on the Sharks, who conceded three kickable penalties inside the first quarter that were all converted by Joe Pietersen.
The only try of the first half was scored by Juan de Jongh in his 50th Super Rugby match after he was put into the gap by De Villiers and effected a strong hand-off on Sharks fullback Francois Steyn.
Pat Lambie converted two penalties for the visitors as they went into halftime 16-6 down.
It was another duel with the boot in the second half as both defences held firm in the face of some ferocious attacking play.
Lambie added two more penalties to Pietersen’s one to keep the Sharks within seven points going into the final 10 minutes.
Stormers flank Siya Kolisi then came closest to a try in the second period from a driving maul but broke away a fraction too early and was held up over the line as the rest of his pack strolled over.
From the resultant scrum the Sharks were penalised for collapsing the maul and Pietersen extended their lead to 10.
The visitors pounded the home line in the final five minutes and having won a penalty after the hooter, Lambie converted to give his side a bonus-point to take back to Durban.
“Credit to the Stormers they put us under pressure at scrum-time and they were able to convert pressure into territory and points,” said Sharks skipper Keegan Daniel.
“We did well to hang in there and that was the goal at the end, to just get a penalty and come away with a losing bonus point.” (firstname.lastname@example.org +27832722948 Messaging email@example.com)