The Investec Stormers made sure that they kept their unbeaten record in matches played in the desert when they romped to a 47-17 win over the Gwent Dragons in a Super 12 warmup match in Dubai on Friday night.
Last year the Investec Stormers beat the Bulls in their warmup match in Dubai and when next they travel to the Middle East for this popular pre-season fixture they will do so with a clean slate.
But for a long time it looked like it might not turn out that way as the gutsy but inexperienced Dragons made life extremely difficult for them, particularly in a first half where the Welshmen did not deserve to be behind 21-17 behind such was the dominance they had on the game until that point.
In this period there was much for Stormers fans to be concerned about. The fielding and contesting of kick-offs and restarts was less than impressive, there were a few good lineouts but also lots of scrappy ones, and the pack failed to stamp early ascendancy on proceedings in other aspects of the game.
Far too often the players took their eye off the ball when it was passed to them, and there were too many kicks charged down, one of which led to the only Dragons try. Indeed, it might not have been amiss in the first half to suggest that the best Stormers player was their old stalwart, Percy Montgomery.
The Springbok fullback, playing for the Dragons, enjoyed only a 50% success rate in kicks at goal. Had that not been the case, the Stormers might have been behind by more than just 17-7 after 34 minutes.
It was then that the Stormers started to put it together, however, and it was when the forwards started to engage their best drive gear that the Cape team started to take control. Fittingly, it was the young scrumhalf Tertius Carse who scored the second try as he rounded the forwards to dot down of what is fast becoming one of his trademark breaks.
The first try had been scored by Gus Theron much against the run of play after a well timed pass from De Wet Barry had presented him with just enough time and space to step inside his opposite wing before swivelling out again for the score near the corner flag. It was one of those night’s where Gaffie du Toit was hitting everything almost perfectly, and of seven shots at goal he was on target with six, not all of them from easy angles.
It is a very early stage of the season and it is understandable that the Stormers, who fielded a vastly changed side to the one that opened against Boland in Wellington last week, should show signs of rust.
When the Stormers did get going after halftime they started to look the part, no-one more so than Luke Watson, who helped put the issue beyond doubt with an impressive challenge on the Newport defence near their own line and the pacy Tonderai Chavangha was able to drop in and score his second try in the space of 10 minutes.
Earlier he had found himself on the end of a long pass from Barry to go over in the right hand corner to extend the four point advantage at the halfway mark to 11.
The Stormers will be alarmed at the high number of penalties they conceded and this will be one of several areas that Smal will be working hard on before the team flies to London to face the Wasps next week. It goes without saying that a big improvement will be expected for that game if the Sharks match on February 25 is to be approached with anything nearing confidence.
Stormers – Tries: Gus Theron, Tertius Carse, Marius Joubert, Tonderai Chavhanga 2, Gaffie du Toit and Neil de Kock. Conversions: Gaffie du Toit 6. Gwent Dragons – Try: Jamie Ringer. Penalties: Percy Montgomery 3. Drop-goal: Craig Warlow.