• Stand tall Stormers: Your loss is your season victory

    Stand tall Stormers: Your loss is your season victory

    Manie Libbok’s last moment missed conversion in the Champions Cup may have just won the Stormers the United Rugby Championship, writes Mark Keohane.

    This is painful right now for Stormers supporters, in the context of the Champions Cup, but when you reflect on the URC, the Stormers could make it three finals in a row.

    The Stormers were outstanding in losing 22-21 to La Rochelle in the last 16 of the Champions Cup. They should never have lost, when you unemotionally analyse the game.

    They were better in the most compelling wind conditions.

    They led 13-0 with the wind, and I say with because the wind was a lottery.

    They led 16-0, then trailed 22-16 with a few minutes to play. They had a try disallowed because the TMO went back some five phases and then they scored with the last movement of the game to take it to 22-21. In between former local favourite Dillyn Leyds was yellow carded. It should have been a penalty try.

    The officials were not kind to the Stormers. They never are in the context of any South African participation.

    The TMO could go back to find a fumble in the build-up to a glorious Stormers try, but there was not even a consideration on an eye-gauge from Botia on Gelant in the 33rd minute. The influence of the TMO remains my biggest frustration in rugby.

    So to the prejudice of a referee. La Rochelle score a maul try. I know it was a try but the referee, not there when the ball was grounded ruled YES on instinct, because he wanted to. The TMO ruled in his favour because inconclusive footage could not dispute it. Had he said, no try, inconclusive footage would have ruled out the try. Herein lies my issue with the system.

    When the Stormers did score, in the last movement of the game, Libbok missed the conversion, where in December, he converted for a one point win against the very same champions of Europe. The rugby gods, I do believe, have spoken, but I also believe, in the context of the season, they have spoken for the Stormers in their season, where the URC is bigger than the Champions Cup.

    On balance: The 21-20 win in the league group stages is a 22-21 defeat in the Champions Cup play-off.

    What you take from this is the team in Cape Town doesn’t stand back from the team that has won two successive Champions Cup titles and last season went to Dublin to beat Leinster at the Aviva Stadium.

    Right now it hurts – and hell it burns.

    For La Rochelle the booze will feel good tonight. Cape Town will feel good. Dublin, a week from now, won’t.

    But here is the but.

    La Rochelle now have to go to Dublin and the Stormers get to regroup at home and refocus on five URC games to the play-offs. Two are at home, two are overseas and the finale is against the Lions in Cape Town.

    When those five matches are done, you in Cape Town won’t remember this result.

    The Stormers were good enough, played well enough and deserved the win on Saturday night. In the context of the season, than goodness they did not get it.

    Applaud them.

    The match officiating was atrocious.

    The use of the yellow card, so subjective, and the TMO injections, so one-sided, were based on subjectivity and not objectivity.

    Despite all this the Stormers would have won if Libbok had kicked the final conversion but, on this occasion, victory in the URC  has come in the face of defeat in the Champions Cup.


    Article written by

    Keo has written about South African and international rugby professionally for the last 25 years