The DHL Stormers survived two late yellow cards to strengthen their hold on second spot in the BKT United Rugby Championship with a 29-23 victory over the Cell C Sharks.
John Dobson’s side claimed a bonus-point win for an 18th consecutive league success in Cape Town but were made to sweat by the Sharks who almost pulled off the most unlikeliest of victories.
The Sharks scored three tries from 26-6 down to set up a grandstand finish that saw Stormers pair Sazi Sandi and Seabelo Senatla banished to the sidelines.
Curwin Bosch’s penalty put the Sharks ahead after seven minutes but the Stormers were soon in front.
Full-back Clayton Blommetjies cut a delicious line and centre Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, a late call up following Dan du Plessis’ withdrawal, powered over.
Bosch restored the Sharks’ lead with a simple penalty but the rest of the first half belonged to the Stormers, who dominated up front.
Flanker Ben-Jason Dixon was gifted a first URC try from Henco Venter’s wayward pass and Manie Libbock converted.
The Sharks were again the architects of their own downfall when Libbock’s long-range penalty attempt fell short and the visitors carried the ball over their own line.
The Stormers built pressure through a series of scrums and the Sharks defence was opened up as Feinberg-Mngomezulu came in as first receiver.
Libbock arced around him and Blommetjies drifted off his defender to burst through. Libbock added the extras and the Stormers led 19-6 at the break.
The start of the second half was a more even affair with Sharks showing more grunt up front and enterprise behind.
But the Stormers scored their fourth try after 55 minutes following Libbock’s cross-kick.
Angelo Davids slipped and failed to ground but he diverted the ball back into the path of Blommetjies, who dotted down for his second try.
Libbock converted and the Stormers were 20 points ahead but the Sharks were far from finished in their pursuit for a play-off place.
Replacement wing Yaw Penxe pounced after a clever kick and Rohan Janse van Rensburg reduced the deficit further after 65 minutes with a strong run.
Bosch converted to cut the gap to eight points and, after replacement Sandi was yellow-carded, Grant Williams sliced his way past several Stormers defenders for a superb solo score.
Senatla also saw yellow for a cynical trip and the Sharks sensed a historic victory was there for the taking.
But the Stormers saw out the final seven minutes with clever game-management and Libbock’s penalty clinched matters.
Vodacom player of the match
Full-back Blommetjies was a constant threat in the Stormers attack, setting up a try for Feinberg-Mngomezulu before scoring twice himself.
Vodacom play of the match
The Sharks finished strongly and Williams produced a wonderful individual score to put the contest in the balance.
The scrum-half, spotting a gap in broken play, stepped on the gas to jink past home defenders with ease.