Stormers scrum sets up bizarre win that clinches second

rugby20 January 2024 20:20| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich

Manie Libbok celebrated his 50th game for the DHL Stormers by scoring the winning try nine minutes from time but that doesn’t come nearly close to giving the full story of the Cape team’s 24-20 win over Stade Francais in their final Investec Champions Cup pool match in Paris.

The Stormers fought back from 20-10 in a game in which frankly for the most part they were abjectly poor and were guilty of far too many loose moments that gifted both possession and points to their opponents to secure the five log points that makes their second placed position in Pool 4 impregnable.

The way it was achieved though was both farcical and bizarre, not that the Stormers were to blame for the confusion that descended on the Stade home ground when the visiting scrum, completely dominant for the entire game, forced first one yellow card and then a second.

And with uncontested scrums then becoming mandatory, English referee Luke Pearce enforced a new law that stipulates that the team that is responsible for the switch to mandatory scrums then has to lose a man.

So that meant an additional Stade player had to go off, meaning they were down to 12 players against the Stormers’ 15.

Only the home players and coaches seemed oblivious to the law, maybe the Stormers too to be fair, and the first play after Stade were supposed to be down to 12 they actually played with 13.

Pearce’s assistants picked that up, so it meant Stade were penalised and back they went to the position where the first mandatory uncontested scrum had been set.


The Stormers were trailing by three points, 20-17, at the time and needed a try both for their try-scoring bonus point and to reclaim the lead they had last held around halfway through the first half.

The first attempt at using their advantage in numbers had failed, but this time the Stormers set it up perfectly, creating the recycle through Dan du Plessis so the Stormers backs could set, and Libbok went through untouched near the posts.

He converted his own try and from there you really couldn’t see the Stormers losing as it would have been assumed the hosts would be down to 12 players almost to the end of the match.

But suddenly, after what seemed no time at all, Stade had 15 players back on the field.

The Stormers almost appeared to be taken by surprise that it was back to contestable scrums and they conceded a scrum penalty that they’d never remotely looked like conceding in the game with less than three minutes left in the game and Stade on the attack.

The French team, out of the running for a place in the Champions Cup round of 16 but clearly motivated by their desire to get into the business end of the Challenge Cup, which is the prize for teams that finish fifth in their pool, threw hammer and tongs into their attempt to win.

It took some brave and brilliant physical defending from the Stormers to keep them out and thus ensure that their round of 16 game on the weekend of 5/6 April will be played at their home ground of DHL Stadium.


In some ways the Stormers will feel they profited from luck, and if you think back to the one-point Springbok win over France in the quarterfinal of the Rugby World Cup, it would be understandable if French people think that Paris is a jinx city for their teams against South African teams.

The luck came about due to the good thinking of man of the match Deon Fourie, the Stormers captain, who brought up the validity of a breakaway try to Stade when Stade were already leading 20-10.

Had the try been awarded it would have been Stade out of sight of the Stormers, but Pearce agreed to take a second look and it was apparent that the Stade player was offsides when he picked up the ball from the ruck.

So it was penalty to the Stormers instead, and with the incident happening deep in the Stade half, the pressure was transferred onto the home team.


Another significant moment in the game was when Stormers coach John Dobson sent on a host of players, who arrested a situation and brought the missing physicality and ended the helter skelter approach that was costing his team.

In particular, former Stade Francais player Hendre Stassen changed the game, with his physical presence making a huge difference and denting the momentum of his former team.

It was Stassen who dotted down the third Stormers try in the 58th minute, which was set up by the backs playing off another monster scrumming effort and Hacjivah Dayimani, another player who made a difference, managing to help the momentum by twisting through a tackle before offloading.

Suddenly instead of the Stormers being 17 behind, like they might well have been had the earlier Stade try stood, it was the Stormers behind by just three.

And it was they who applied all the pressure after that, with the sequence of scrums five metres out from the Stade line in which the Stormers secured penalty after penalty until eventually Pearce had to reach into his pocket not once, but twice, spanning the 66th minute to the 70th.

There may have been a concern that the Stormers used up too much time without putting points on the board in that time but Libbok’s try quietened those doubts and secured an important and bizarre win.


The Stormers’ tendency to gift their opponents scoring opportunities that was evident in some of their recent home matches became evident in the second minute of the game when the French team overturned a loose scrum after initial good work from Warrick Gelant in securing the catch off a contestable kick.

The Stormers struck back in the 10th minute with a try in the corner to scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies off a big scrumming effort, and then Ruben van Heerden crossed to make it 10-5 to the Stormers.

Stade, as vulnerable as they looked at scrum time, were vastly stronger when it came to cleaning out the rucks, where the Stormers were abysmal with their attempts to protect their possession.

The Stormers struggled in the lineouts in the first half too.

But they survived it to pick up full points and in doing so they ended a winless period in Europe that extends back to their Champions Cup win over London Irish more than a year ago.


DHL Stormers 24

Tries: Herschel Jantjies, Ruben van Heerden, Henre Stassen and Manie Libbok

Conversions: Manie Libbok 2

Stade Francais 20

Tries: Andy Timo, Lester Etien and Mathieu Hirigoyen

Conversion: Joris Segonds

Penalty: Joris Segonds