Tenacious Ospreys deliver big blow to Stormers

rugby20 April 2024 20:00
By:Gavin Rich

Maybe people should start taking the Ospreys more seriously after the performance they put in to inflict a shock 27-21 defeat on the DHL Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday that is a massive blow to the home team’s hopes of securing a home Vodacom United Rugby Championship playoff.

Maybe people should start taking the Ospreys more seriously after the performance they put in to inflict a shock 27-21 defeat on the DHL Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday that is a massive blow to the home team’s hopes of securing a home Vodacom United Rugby Championship playoff.

Yes, this was easily the worst Stormers performance, at least at home, since they lost to the Emirates Lions here towards the end of 2021. And yes, the Stormers conspired against themselves, with Manie Libbok probably turning in his personal worst performance since he went walkabout against the Sharks in Durban in February 2022.

But you also have to doff your caps to an Ospreys team that played with tenacity and massive commitment, with their swarming defence playing no small role in ensuring that the Stormers found themselves trying to run the ball from behind the gain-line.

And on a day when they were sloppy and at their charitable best when it came to offering gifts to their opponents, it just always looked like this would be a day where the result would be the opposite of what most people would have expected.

Did the Stormers disrespect the Ospreys? Their team wasn’t exactly full strength, although it has to be said that many of the missing players probably needed the game off to recover from the bruises and the concussions inflicted in the titanic physical battle with La Rochelle in the Champions Cup round of 16 match here two weeks ago.

There probably wasn’t any disrespect, for after all we all believe the Stormers have built up impressive depth and should be able to beat most opponents at home even with a second-string team (which this combination most emphatically wasn’t), but maybe the Welsh side was underestimated.


The Stormers didn’t buzz at the start like they have in some other games, and they rediscovered the habit they showed on their URC tour in November of trying too many Hail Marys. Which proved costly, with the whole game probably pivoting on the try the Ospreys scored on the stroke of halftime when a Libbok crosskick didn’t find the Stormers player it was intended for instead found the eager Ospreys and set up a second try for wing Luke Morgan.

Morgan had crossed in the eighth minute to put the visitors ahead after both teams had started off playing loose rugby, with the wing going over as the Ospreys ran a penalty advantage near the Stormers posts and created the advantage in numbers that set up the five-pointer.

The Stormers did strike back with an impressive attack based around short switched passes that put Dan du Plessis in under the posts five minutes later, with Libbok’s conversion putting the Stormers ahead by two points.

The Stormers did create opportunities after that, but good defending from the Ospreys kept them out. Perhaps the best way to sum up this game is that the Ospreys looked after the ball a lot better than the Stormers, and also chose far better options.

The Stormers were having the better of the game when Libbok opted to run from inside his own 22 when the obvious option was to hoof the ball upfield and relieve what had become a pressured situation for the Cape team. It was from the mistake made in the Stormers 22 that the Ospreys were able to set up the scrum from which they launched the play that saw hooker Sam Harry force his way over near the posts.


That was in the 26th minute and it put the Ospreys back into a lead they were never to relinquish, with the 10-point buffer created on the stroke of halftime by the Libbok mistake and second Hughes try being the psychological boost they needed.

Wandisile Simelane picked up a difficult rolling pass from Warrick Gelant, something there was way too much of from the Stormers in the game, three minutes after halftime to set up the attack that saw Evan Roos blitz through open space to score near the posts.

The deficit was down to three points and it was game on, but the Stormers continued to give away penalties, continued to make a mess of their handling and the Ospreys kept harrying their backwards with their physical advancing defensive line that effectively just gave the Stormers no chance to breathe.

As mentioned earlier, the Ospreys were just also so much better at holding onto possession, and it was for that reason that the Stormers, instead of taking the game by the scruff as many might have expected after the Roos score, found themselves stuck in their own half.

They also kept conceding silly penalties throughout the game, and that helped the Ospreys sustain the pressure that eventually saw Harry Deans wriggle over for the try that left the Stormers needing to overcome a 10-point deficit in the last 17 minutes.

On another day, the Stormers might have pulled it off but this wasn’t going to be one of those days, it was a day when they just lacked the necessary cohesion, didn’t look after their possession, and lost to the better team on the day. The Stormers were able to grab a losing bonus point when, off the last move of the game, they were awarded a penalty try.

It is now the Ospreys, and not the Stormers, who have become serious contenders for a top-four finish. They are coming out from under the radar. The Stormers have work to do before Leinster arrive here next week.


Ospreys 27 - Tries: Luke Morgan 2, Sam Harry and Harry Deans; Conversions: Jack Walsh 2; Penalty: Jack Walsh.

DHL Stormers 21 - Tries: Dan du Plessis and Evan Roos; Penalty try; Conversions: Manie Libbok 2.