The DHL Stormers consolidated their position on top of the South African conference and increased their chances of a top two finish on the overall Vodacom Super Rugby log with an emphatic 40-3 win over the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday.
The Stormers were always on top of their opponents, with their anticipated physical superiority being obvious from an early stage as they suffocated the home team virtually from the kick-off. However, considering the marked superiority in they had in most aspects of the game, you could say the Stormers made heavy weather of the four try bonus point.
They created several opportunities that were wasted and, with three minutes to go, the Stormers were looking frustrated as they struggled to nail down their fourth try. The bonus point had looked almost a fait accompli when they crossed for their third in the 61st minute, leaving them 19 minutes to score another try for the bonus.
But eventually something worked for the Stormers, with Andries Bekker, on as a replacement, putting in a run down the left flank before he transferred inside to replacement loose-forward Nick Koster to score his first try in Super Rugby and his team’s all-important fourth of the match.
And then just to rub it in and build further confidence ahead of next week’s big Cape Town derby against the Bulls, Deon Fourie set off on a sniping run after fielding the kick-off before bringing Bekker into play, this time on the right flank, and when the ball went inside, perhaps a bit forward, it was Jean de Villiers who gathered to run the final 25 metres to complete the score.
The Stormers had led 16-3 at half-time thanks to three penalties from flyhalf Kurt Coleman and a Bryan Habana try where he ran a straight line off scrumhalf Ricky Januarie who drifted to the right after receiving the ball from No8 Duane Vermeulen off an attacking scrum. A high proportion of the Stormers tries this season have been scored off first phase and this was one of them.
Coleman was much better than the previous week against the Brumbies. Whereas in Canberra he appeared to be hiding during a nervous first start in Stormers colours, this time he took ownership of the pivot position and was much more flat lining on attack.
It brought back the shape to the Stormers that coach Allister Coetzee had been hoping for, and De Villiers no doubt played a big role in bringing the youngster through. The centre himself was back to his most solid form, and it was his break in the second half that set up the 70 metre try that also featured Gio Aplon before Jaque Fourie rounded off in the corner.
Earlier Coleman himself had crossed for the Stormers’ second try, with some obdurate Rebels defence denying repeated Stormers attempts to drive the ball over through the forwards before finally it was flung wide to the right for Coleman to go over almost unopposed.
Generally Coleman made good decisions and took greater control of the game, but the Stormers were at times guilty of being a little too impatient with ball in hand, particularly in the first half. Perhaps they started chasing the four try bonus point too early.
However overall it was a convincing performance, with the Stormers dominating the scrums and also doing well in the lineouts after struggling a bit initially. An area where there should be some cause for concern was the number of times the Rebels were able to turn over Stormers ball through counter-rucking.
The win and the five log points puts the Stormers second on the overall log, one point behind the Reds and three ahead of the Blues, but both the other two teams still have to play this weekend. The Stormers are now 10 points ahead of the Sharks and 12 ahead of the Bulls on the South African conference, but both the other teams have a game in hand.
“It wasn’t a bad tour for us, we won three out of four games and we are pleased with the five log points we got from this game,” said skipper Schalk Burger.
“We feel we are improving our attacking game, but while we created many opportunities we still left a few too many points on the table. Our defensive game was again outstanding though and that is what gets us going. We head back now for two tough home derbies and we know the Bulls will be waiting for us after we beat them in the first round match in Pretoria.”
Melbourne Rebels – Penalty: Julian Huxley.
DHL Stormers – Tries: Bryan Habana, Kurt Coleman, Jaque Fourie, Nick Koster, Jean de Villiers. Conversions: Kurt Coleman (2), Earl Rose. Penalties: Coleman (3).