Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – The Stormers are on a tantalising, unprecedented “hat-trick” … now the million-dollar question is whether Super Rugby conference rivals the Lions will thwart it at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.
This refers, of course, to the Capetonians’ first ever achievement by a side in the competition, since its inauguration in professional-era format in 1996, of going successive matches in which their opponents have not been able to register a single point on the scoreboard.
Both times at Newlands, the Stormers have seen off the Hurricanes 27-0 and then, more recently, the Bulls 13-0.
They achieved the landmark twice, and also both times at home, in the 2014 season as well: 33-0 against the Cheetahs and 16-0 against the Bulls, though in between matches had come a game in Durban where they pipped the Sharks 21-19.
The Lions are next obstacle now as John Dobson’s charges – this time with the considerable drawback of it being an away fixture – attempt to make it a truly jaw-dropping treble in 2020.
Their overwhelmingly major concern, naturally, will be simply to win the derby against a Lions outfit who bounced back from a first-round defeat to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires to outlast the Reds 27-20 in Johannesburg last weekend.
Any betting odds on the Stormers “zeroing” the Lions, too, would no doubt be enormously long: even if the hosts weren’t to get behind the whitewash for a try on Saturday, they have a prolific-scoring flyhalf in captain Elton Jantjies, who is highly unlikely to go an entire match without any personal points off the tee.
Springbok stalwart Jantjies is among the select handful of players in Super Rugby history to have already gone above 1 000 career points.
Have the Lions ever previously been blanked out at home, too?
The answer is no: it has happened to them twice away … and one of those occasions only in a partial capacity, when they were an awkward combined franchise with the Cheetahs, being demolished 64-0 by the Brumbies (as the Cats) in Canberra in 2000.
Previously, as the Gauteng Lions in the 1997 competition, they lost 29-0 to the Crusaders in New Zealand.
They can also claim, much more recently, to have been architects of a “nil” shutout to their credit when they beat the Waratahs 29-0 in Sydney during 2018.
The Stormers and Crusaders – the latter the most legendarily successful side in Super Rugby history – share the honour of five times managing to prevent opponents getting any points at all in a match, and they also, coincidentally, have each been on the receiving end of a “nil” score-line once: the ‘Saders losing 6-0 to the Highlanders in 2009 and the Stormers being beaten 22-0 by the very Cantabrians at Newlands in 2008.
Next best for starving their opponents of points in a game are the Brumbies, who have managed it four times, also with one instance of the phenomenon stinging them.
There are 26 instances, in total, of matches in Super Rugby from 1996 onward in which one side has registered nil, the only seasons not involving a “nought in one team’s column” game at all being 2012, an extended period between the 2001 and 2004 seasons, plus 1998 and inaugural 1996.
Here is the list of strictly South African derbies thus far to have involved a nil score by one team – and none yet involving the Lions:
2020: Stormers 13 Bulls 0
2016: Sharks 53 Kings 0
2014: Stormers 33 Cheetahs 0, Stormers 16 Bulls 0
2013: Kings 0 Bulls 34
1999: Sharks 29 Bulls 0
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