Stormers scrum and Libbok pave way for crucial win

rugby18 May 2024 18:40| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich

The DHL Stormers took what looks like a decisive step towards Vodacom United Rugby Championship playoff participation and Investec Champions Cup qualification with a tight 16-12 win over Connacht in their penultimate league match in Galway on Saturday.

It was the Stormers’ second successive win on the road as they completed a two-match tour where they managed to grab nine of the 10 available points and it was thus a step towards burying their supposed overseas bogey. Last week’s win over the Dragons was their first one north of the equator since October 2022.

It was also a big step towards making themselves relatively safe in terms of the top-seven place that may be necessary to make it into next season’s Champions Cup as they now have a five-point lead on the logjam of teams, including their last league game opponents on 1 July, the Emirates Lions.

It means that instead of that game being a straight shootout between the two South African teams, as it could have been had the Stormers lost against Connacht after the Lions’ five-point haul against log leaders Glasgow Warriors earlier in the afternoon, the Stormers will effectively need just a bonus point to make sure of reaching what would have been their minimum goal at the start of the season.

The other results this weekend mean that a home playoff is now beyond them, with both the Vodacom Bulls and Munster well out of range. But having Champions Cup qualification on the line in that final game of the regular season would have been particularly stressful for a team of the quality of the Stormers.


The Stormers were up against a Connacht team that has only lost once to a South African team on their home ground since the start of the URC nearly three full seasons ago and the Stormers can thank their scrum and the calmness of flyhalf Manie Libbok for their win.

Not only did Libbok enjoy a faultless evening from the kicking tee in difficult windy conditions, it was also his break off a drive from another impressive Stormers player, Evan Roos, that set up the Angelo Davids try after halftime that overturned a four-point deficit at the break.

It was the Stormers scrum unit that really laid the foundation, and the penalty forced by Neethling Fouche that Libbok kicked to force Connacht into a situation where they had to score a try to win the game with less than eight minutes to go summed up the game.

Both teams started off nervously, perhaps understandably given what was on the line, and the first half, where the Stormers played into the teeth of a strong wind, was scrappy. After 16 minutes the hosts, who enjoyed most of the possession in the first half and will rue not making more of having the wind at their backs, had made six handling errors to three from the Stormers.

In other words, not good from either team, with Stormers scrumhalf Elton Jantjies in particular making elementary errors that stymied his team’s quest for attacking rhythm.


To be fair, the Stormers were up against a team that knew it was in their last chance saloon and had said during the week they were approaching it as a Cup final. And they produced that kind of determination, not giving an inch to their opponents with their tenacious defensive effort. And ditto the Stormers when they didn’t have the ball.

The Stormers though were forced to make 70 tackles to just 40 by their opponents in the first half, although they could so easily have taken a 10-0 lead 27 minutes into the game. That was five minutes after the Stormers had finally decided against continuing their ploy of scrumming attacking penalties and Libbok kicked successfully for posts to put his team into a 3-0 lead.

Wing Davids was put in for the try after a great take from the impressive Warrick Gelant but alas for the Stormers, the referee was called back by the TMO, with some help from the crowd, and he correctly adjudged that there had been a forward pass at the genesis of the attack.


If there was one big problem for the Stormers on the night apart from their handling, it was their discipline, and almost immediately after the disallowed try, they conceded what was admittedly a rare scrum penalty. From there, with Connacht playing with the wind, they set up the field position which led to scrumhalf Caolin Blade going over off a pick-and-drive buildup for the first try of the match.

The conversion from Jack Carty made it 7-3 and that was the halftime score, with the four-point margin perhaps not enough for the hosts considering they were playing with the wind. The Stormers regained the lead when Davids scored but then were blighted by their own indiscipline, allowing Connacht entry into their 22 from which reserve prop Jack Aungler dotted down off another pick and drive.

Carty’s failure with the conversion attempt into the wind meant that when Libbok next kicked successfully for the posts, the Stormers went into a solitary-point lead. With the scrum dominant, the Stormers had the momentum late in the game that they needed and, most importantly, the territory when Connacht were trying to overturn the four-point deficit.

A strong Stormers defence kept Connacht rooted in their territory and in the end, it was a turnover from Gelant that made sure of the victory.


DHL Stormers 16 - Try: Angelo Davids; Conversion: Manie Libbok; Penalties: Manie Libbok 3.

Connacht 12 - Tries: Coalin Blade and Jack Aungler; Conversion: Jack Carty.