It probably was not exactly the type of performance coach Kobus van der Merwe hoped for, but there were encouraging signs as the Vodacom Stormers trounced the Southern Spears 73-5 at Wellington’s Boland Stadium on Saturday.
The Stormers led 19-0 at halftime after a stuttering start, but early in the second half slotted into a rhythm and ran the 14-men Spears ragged. The Spears suffered a setback when prop Eugene Maqwelana was red-carded for punching in the 31st minute.
The Stormers showed early season rust and couldn’t do much right in the first 20 minutes as the Spears took the game to them. The visitors controlled most of the ball, while the Stormers play was marred by handling errors.
After halftime the Stormers played with more composure and their class showed. Flank Luke Watson was outstanding and showed he is ready to play a big role in the Super 14 campaign, while Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger also looked sharp.
Both teams had a chance early on to put points on the board, but first Spears flyhalf Isma-eel Dollie and shortly afterwards his opposite number Peter Grant failed with penalty attempts.
The Spears suffered a setback when their captain and No 8, Ashley Johnson, received a yellow card in the 17th minute for cynically killing the ball in a ruck close to his try-line.
The Stormers kicked the ball out, but couldn’t benefit from the resulting lineout five metres from the visitors’ try-line. Grant failed with another kickable penalty attempt in the 22nd minute.
The Stormers got the first try of the match in the 27th minute when Hanyani Shimange forced his way over after they poached a lineout ball from the Spears. Grant failed with the conversion attempt (5-0).
Three minutes later there was a bit of magic between the Stormers Boland wings Jonghi Nokwe and Rayno Benjamin. Nokwe broke out of a tackle before off-loading to Benjamin. He used his pace and power to get away from the opposition, but with the try-line begging, he spilled the ball.
The Stormers, however, got their five points when flanker Watson scored in the 31st minute after more strong driving play from the Stormers. Fullback Werner Greeff took over the goal-kicking from Grant and slotted the conversion to make the score 12-0.
A fist fight broke out after Watson scored and Maqwelana got his marching orders from referee Marius Jonker. Stormers prop JD Moller got a yellow card for his troubles.
Marius Mostert came on for the Spears and Gershom Ramazan had to go take an early shower. Attie Winter replaced Moller for the Stormers.
The Stormers again used brute force to get their third try in the 38th minute when lock Andries Bekker was unstoppable over the try-line. Greeff added two more to make the score 19-0.
The Stormers replaced scrumhalf Bolla Conradie with Neil de Kock and Gus Theron replaced Piet van Zyl at outside centre at halftime.
It didn’t take the Stormers too long to get the scoreboard rolling again. Some deft passing and good running saw Jean de Villiers crossing the try-line after just one minute and three minutes later Rayno Benjamin scored his first try in the Stormers jersey.
Greeff converted the first try and De Kock the second (33-0). Watson, who was pretty impressive all afternoon long, scored his second try in the 48th minute, shrugging off some feeble attempted tackles from the Spears. De Kock slotted the conversion and at 40-0 things started to look ominous for the visitors.
The Spears, however, hit back and Spencer Wakeling caught the defenders off-guard before crossing for his side’s first try (40-5). The Spears then showed some grit and determination as they resolutely defended their try-line and the Stormers had to wait until the 60th minute before Schalk Burger scored the next try.
Benjamin brought up the half century with his second try after a good build-up emanating from a good run by replacement hooker Schalk Brits. De Kock converted to stretch the lead to 54-5.
The last few minutes of the game belonged to Nokwe, who exhibited his blistering pace in scoring two tries. Replacement wing Johan Pietersen also scored a very good try, showing good vision and speed.
– Tries: Hanyani Shimange, Luke Watson (2), Andries Bekker, Jean de Villiers, Rayno Benjamin (2), Schalk Burger, Jonghi Nokwe (2), Johan Pietersen; Conversions: Werner Greeff (3), Neil de Kock (5).
– Tries:Spencer Wakeling.
Vodacom Stormers: 15 Werner Greeff; 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Piet van Zyl, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Jonghi Nokwe, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Bolla Conradie, 8 Adri Badenhorst, 7 Schalk Burger (captain), 6 Luke Watson, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Ross Skeate, 3 Eddie Andrews, 2 Hanyani Shimange, 1 JD Moller.
16 Schalk Brits, 17 Attie Winter, 18 Henk Eksteen, 19 David Hendricks, 20 Neil de Kock, 21 Naas Olivier, 22 Joe Pietersen.
Southern Spears: 15 Baldwin McBean; 14 Reinhard Gerber, 13 Basil de Doncker, 12 Vusumzi Mbulali, 11 Gershom Ramazan, 10 Isma-eel Dollie, 9 Warren Malgas, 8 Ashley Johnson (captain), 7 Devon Raubenheimer, 6 Maurice Reid, 5 Lian Combrink, 4 Jaco du Toit, 3 Petro Methula, 2 Wayne Bennett, 1. Eugene Maqwelana.
16 Wayne Bennett, 17 Marius Mostert, 18 Hein Potgieter, 19 Pietie Loots, 20 Daniel Philander, 21 Spencer Wakeling, 22 Ashwin Scott, Anton van der Westhuizen