The Vodacom Stormers finished their Vodacom Super 14 campaign on a disappointing note when they went down 36-10 to the Sharks at Newlands on Saturday.
The Sharks finished on top of the log with 45 points – a first for a South African team – and ensured a home semi-final and a possible home final. The Stormers finished in tenth position on 27 points.
The big difference between the two sides was the potent Sharks pack, who sapped the home team’s energy at scrum time and also with their rolling maul. The Stormers tried valiantly, but was outclassed on the day by a strong Sharks outfit.
The Sharks scored five tries to one and was full value for their win with a bonus point.
It was a cracking game, with the Sharks enjoying the early ascendancy through their physical pack, who had the Stormers in all sorts of trouble from the first set scrum onwards.
Their first try came after the home side was under severe pressure in a set scrum. Breyton Paulse received the ball behind his own try-line with two defenders pouncing on him and his pass to centre Corné Uys was forward.
From the scrum the Sharks surged ahead, recycling the ball four times before No 8 Ryan Kankowski barged over. Fullback Percy Montgomery converted to give his side a 7-0 cushion after only 3 minutes.
The Sharks made their intentions clear when they stretched their lead to 14-0 in the 7th minute. This time they showed they don’t only possess brutal strength, but also silky running and passing skills.
Outside centre Waylon Murray was the man to finish off a fluent movement, initiated by hooker John Smit. He was ably assisted by a breathtaking run from scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar. Montgomery again converted.
The shell-shocked Stormers then realized they had a game on their hands and started to inject some urgency. They showed they could be devastating with ball in hand and it was after a show of their attacking class – initiated by fullback Conrad Jantjes – that Gerrie Britz dived over on the corner flag.
The Television Match Official was consulted and he ruled against the Stormers. In the 13th minute the Stormers again came desperately close to a five-pointer, but this time scrumhalf Bolla Conradie lost the ball when he was tackled virtually under the crossbar.
The Stormers however got a try in the 18th minute when the opted to kick for position after receiving a penalty. From the ensuing ruck flyhalf Peter Grant demonstrated what he was capable of by shaking off two defenders and beating another to score. He converted himself to make the score 14-7.
In the 22nd he slotted a penalty goal to get his team in contention at 14-10.
The Sharks however ensured they would go into the break with a comfortable lead after they had the Stormers under siege for about five minutes before Montgomery scored in the right hand corner. He beautifully converted to make the score 21-10.
It was the former Stormers star who also got the scoreboard ticking in the second half when he comfortably slotted a penalty goal in the 49th minute to make the score 24-10.
Former Stormers captain Bob Skinstad made his entrance in the 60th minute and was instrumental in the try that basically killed off the game as a contest. Peter Grant fumbled a rolling ball, replacement Sharks centre Adrian Jacobs pounced and Skinstad handled before Francois Steyn finished off in the right hand corner (29-10).
Cape-born wing JP Pietersen hit the final nail in the Stormers coffin when he scored in the last minute for Montgomery to convert.
Sharks – Tries: Ryan Kankowski, Waylon Murray, Percy Montgomery, Francois Steyn, JP Pietersen; Conversions:Percy Montgomery (4); Penalties: Percy Montgomery (1).
Vodacom Stormers – Try: Peter Grant; Conversion: Peter Grant; Penalty: Peter Grant.