The Investec Stormers got their Super 12 campaign off to a near perfect start when they beat the Sharks 26-12 at Newlands in Cape Town tonight.
Near perfect, because the Men in Black just failed to collect the fourth try that would have given them a bonus point and a full house of five points. The home side led 13-5 at halftime after a somewhat sluggish start to the match.
The Stormers, however, soon found their feet to give the big crowd of almost 49 000 people what they wanted. This win was just what the doctor ordered before the Cape side leave for the arduous overseas leg of their campaign.
They scored three impressive tries, defended well, and the pack seemed quite capable of doing the business in this year’s competition. The early season cobwebs were understandably there, but coach Gert Smal would know that those are nothing hard work cannot fix.
The Sharks showed right from the start they meant business. They played a physical, aggressive game and used the big centre Trevor Halstead as a battering ram to find holes in the defence. Early on this tactic was highly effective and Halstead caused the home side a lot of trouble.
However, it was Stormers flyhalf, Gaffie du Toit, who gave his side the early lead with two well-taken penalties. The Sharks got the first try of the game though, when Halstead handed off Marius Joubert before unleashing Brent Russell.
The nimble-footed fullback created uncertainty and enough time and space for Butch James to cross near the corner flag. He missed the conversion.
The Stormers fought back and had the Sharks under pressure. They eventually broke the defensive lines in the 37th minute when Joubert atoned for his earlier missed tackle by intercepting a James pass. He sent a flying Breyton Paulse on a 50m dash for the try-line. Du Toit converted to make the score 13-5.
The flyhalf slotted another penalty in the 48th minute before playing a major role in the try scored by wing Jean de Villiers in the 51st. He kicked a towering up-and-under and a hapless Odwa Ndungane couldn’t catch the ball. De Villiers was at hand to grab the ball and celebrated his Super 12 debut with a try.
In the 63rd minute Paulse showed he hasn’t lost any of his magic when he swooped onto a grubber kick from De Villiers, collected the ball on his second attempt between two defenders and then sprinted for the try-line for a try that made Newlands roar.
The Sharks showed some fighting spirit and scored a spectacular long-distance try by Nico Breedt after some great work by Russell, who was in outstanding form. James converted to make the scoreline 26-12, but the night belonged to the Stormers.
Except for De Villiers, Luke Watson, Gerrie Britz and Joe van Niekerk who started the game, coach Gert Smal also handed debuts to substitutes Riaan Olckers and Tiger Mangweni.
Investec Stormers – Tries: Breyton Paulse (2), Jean de Villiers; Conversion: Gaffie du Toit; Penalties: Du Toit (3).
Sharks – Tries: Butch James, Nico Breedt; Conversion: Butch James.