Despite the handicap of two 11th hour withdrawals the Vodacom Stormers were far too enterprising for the Higlanders and deservedly ran out 33-0 victors in the Vodacom Super 14 match at Newlands on Saturday evening.
The Stormers’ performance marked a massive improvement on last week’s display at the same venue where the Brumbies narrowly beat them 19-17.
The crowd of 38 000 were treated to four tries from the home side who produced several entertaining passages of play, particularly in the second half when the Stormers were worth at least two more tries.
The visiting New Zealanders made all the early running and looked a very composed outfit as they took the ball efficiently through the phases. The Stormers’ defence showed a great sense of anticipation as the Highlanders sprung a number of variations in attempt to make a breakthrough.
A ninth minute penalty by fullback Joe Pietersen, and another kick two minutes later started the Stormers’ early scoring spree. The six-point lead seemed to lift the Stormers and they set off on a number of rousing sorties into the Highlanders half which proved hard to contain.
The Highlanders surrendered possession at a 15 metre line-out, however, and the Stormers exploited their good fortune by shifting the ball wide where hooker Deon Fourie bulldozed his way over near the corner flag. Pietersen goaled splendidly (13-0).
Fourie was one of two late inclusions in the Stormers side after the flu bug struck their camp on the eve of the match. He came in for first-choice hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, and he really made his presence felt in the first half.
The other flu victim was rightwing Gio Aplon and he was replaced by Sireli Naqelevuki, who like Fourie, made excellent contributions in the Stormers’ approach work. Aplon, however, made it on to the Stormers’ reserve bench.
The Stormers continued to pin down the Highlanders in their own half and the pressure might have taken its toll a few minutes later but a Schalk Burger try was disallowed after referee Mark Lawrence spotted an infringement in the build-up.
But the Stormers managed to increase their lead ahead of their halftime whistle with a third Pietersen penalty (16-0).
The Highlanders produced a carbon copy of their first-half start when play got under way after the break but again they found the Stormers defence an impregnable fortress. They did, however, try to touch the upright with the ball but the TV replays showed scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan lost the ball a fraction short of the upright.
Once the Stormers weathered a 12-minute onslaught they managed to breakout into the opposition 22 metre. They took the play to five metres away from the tryline where centre Jaque Fourie was stopped in his tracks in the 58th minute.
But on the hour the Stormers crowned their pressure-spell with a hard earned try by their skipper Burger who lunged a metre with three opponents hanging on, to snatch his side’s second five-pointer. This time Pietersen’s conversion failed (21-0).
With the Highlanders still battling to regain their shape, the Stormers used a forward maul to set up their next score and, this time, substitute Pieter Louw rounded with an unconverted try (26-0).
On the stroke of fulltime, Bryan Habana followed up a kick ahead brilliantly to snatch a bonus-point try for his side. Peter Grant’s conversion failed (33-0).
Vodacom Stormers: Tries: Deon Fourie, Schalk Burger, Pieter Louw and Bryan Habana. Conversions: Joe Pietersen and Peter Grant. Penalties: Pietersen (3)