The Vodacom Stormers are still looking for that elusive victory on the overseas leg of their Vodacom Super 14 campaign after going down 34-11 to the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.
The home team led 17-8 after an entertaining first half in which both sides showed they were prepared to give the ball air.
The injury-ravaged Stormers suffered a huge blow as early as the 4th minute when captain and centre Jean de Villiers cried off with what seemed like a knee injury. De Villiers is a hugely influential player for the Stormers and it was evident that the team missed their talisman.
Dylan des Fountain replaced him and flank Schalk Burger took over the captaincy.
The Cape franchise also had to start the match without Springbok prop Brian Mujati, who didn’t recover sufficiently from concussion. Wicus Blaauw started in his place at tighthead. There was a debut for lock Hilton Lobberts and scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenhage started for the first time after having a few runs as a substitute.
The Stormers didn’t have the best of days at scrum time, although No 8 Luke Watson did a good job of controlling the ball behind a backpedalling pack. The Hurricanes also outmuscled them at the breakdown and forced the visitors to make way too many errors to stand a realistic chance to win this game. The Stormers had the upper hand in the lineouts though.
The biggest disruption to the team was on defence, as illustrated by the fact that the Stormers conceded four tries for the first time this season.
The team created a few opportunities on the attack and was prepared to try a few things on the counter-attack – something that was lacking in most of the previous games. Knock-ons with the try-line begging by JD Moller and Sireli Naqelevuki and a wrong option by Watson in the first half cost them three tries.
Shortly after his entrance Des Fountain scored the Stormers only try of the match after kicking the ball ahead and beating the defenders to it to tap it forward again before diving over. Referee Jonathan Kaplan consulted the Television Match Official, who ruled the try was good. Flyhalf Peter Grant missed the relatively easy conversion, but his team had the lead after 8th minutes.
Hurricanes flyhalf Willie Rippia answered with a penalty in the 15th min. and once lock Jeremy Trush scored a try in the 18th min. the Hurricanes took control of the situation and never let go.
Two tries in the second half by outside centre Ma’a Nonu clinched the bonus point for the home team. The first one was a cruel result of a bad bounce of the ball for the Stormers after a kick ahead by Grant. The ball fell perfect for Canes’ fullback Corey Jane, who ripped the defence open before Nonu scored.
Nonu used his power to great effect, stepping in between two defenders for his second under the poles. The big Nr 13 was just unstoppable from close range after a ruck.
The Stormers now travel to Dunedin for their final match on tour against the Highlanders.
Hurricanes – Jeremy Trush, Tamati Ellison, Ma’a Nonu (2); Conversions: Willie Rippia (4); Penalties (2).
Vodacom Stormers – Dylan des Fountain; Penalties: Peter Grant (2).