Rugby fans during Super Hero Sunday at Cape Town Stadium. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES​
Rugby fans during Super Hero Sunday at Cape Town Stadium. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES​

Super Hero Sunday showed there is room for optimism in South African rugby in 2019 .

There was skill, passion and aggression on display as well as a healthy competitiveness that raised these matches above an average pre-season workout in front of a capacity crowd.

The event will reopen the debate about whether Western Province Rugby needs to move to Cape Town Stadium sooner rather than later.

On the field the Lions pipped the Sharks 19-14 in the day’s opening match in front of about 40,000 fans, which swelled to a capacity 54,000 by the time the Stormers met the Bulls in the day’s second match.

The Stormers, who are unlikely to play in front of a larger crowd in 2019  considering Newlands only holds 49,000, made the Bulls pay for early mistakes, running out 33-28 winners.

As a concept, the Lions wore Spiderman themed kits, the Sharks Black Panther, the Stormers Thor and the Bulls Captain America outfits,  which was a roaring success.

There was a festival feel to the games, but there was also an edge to the contests. The Stormers and Bulls swapped seven first half tries with both sides showing the ability to finish clinically off mistakes, while  creating holes in the opposing defence.

It was a wonderful spectacle as the home side ran into a 21-0 lead after Seabelo Senatla, Josh Stander and SP Marais scored tries from turnover.

Stormers hooker, Scarra Ntubeni, struggled to connect with his jumpers, but he was one of the best players on show all day in the loose. He set up Senatla by snaffling a loose ball on the deck and timing his offload to perfection. It was a microcosm of his contribution.

The Bulls stampeded back to lead 28-26 with less than eight minutes remaining via tries from Handré Pollard, Ivan van Zyl, Warrick Gelant and Paul Schoeman. But the Stormers won the match after a period of heavy pressure on the Bulls line ended with lock Chris van Zyl crashing over for the try.

There appeared to be no serious injuries although centre Jesse Kriel went off early after a head knock. The Lions and Sharks were more prosaic in their approaches with defence dominating that match.

The Lions edged the contest, thanks to the hard work of their pack with hooker Malcolm Marx showing why he is one of the best players in the world. Marx regularly broke tackles and was accurate in the set pieces — an issue that has plagued him recently.

Captain and No 8 Warren Whiteley was excellent in his roaming role, adding height and bulk in wider channels. Flyhalf Elton Jantjies played a quietly influential role behind a pack on the front foot. He attacked the line, but more frequently probed in behind with deft kicks that kept the Sharks on edge.

But the Durban side had their moments and led when wing Makazole Mapimpi intercepted from near halfway for the opening score of the match. It was a reward for the Sharks’ solid and aggressive defence.

The Lions responded through Marx with a powerful drive close to the line that took two defenders over the whitewash with him. Wing Courtnall Skosan extended the Lions’ lead after the break when he ran on to a Jantjies grubber.

The Sharks  ,however, struck back through hooker Akker van der Merwe but the Lions nicked the spoils when fullback Sylvian Mahuza pounced  at a mistake to score the winning try.

Scorers:

Lions (Spiderman) 19 — Tries: Malcolm Marx, Courtnall Skosan and Sylvian Mahuza. Conversions: Elton Jantjies 2.

Sharks (Blank Panther) 14 — Tries: Makazole Mapimpi, Akker van der Merwe. Conversions: Curwin Bosch 2.

Stormers (Thor) — Tries: Seabelo Senatla, Josh Stander, SP Marais, Juarno Augustus, Chris van Zyl. Conversions: SP Marais (3), Damian Willemse.

Bulls (Captain America) — Tries: Handre Pollard, Ivan van Zyl, Warrick Gelant, Paul Schoeman. Conversions: Pollard (3), Manie Libbok.