The Vodacom Stormers finally fulfilled their rich potential on Saturday at Newlands by annihilating the Lions 56-18 in a Vodacom Super 14 match.
The home side led 23-18 at halftime of an exciting and very entertaining match in front of 32 000 spectators. The Stormers have also clinched an important bonus point for scoring seven tries.
They can now depart on the overseas leg of their campaign with a lot more confidence and the knowledge that a good showing in Australia and New Zealand could still see them in the play-off phase of the competition.
The Lions showed a lot of intent in the early stages of the game and enjoyed a lead of 12-3 after two tries – by fullback Louis Ludik and wing Henno Mentz respectively – stunned the home crowd.
Flyhalf Andre Pretorius converted Mentz’s try after flyhalf Willem de Waal handed his side the lead with an 11th minute penalty.
The Stormers, however, refused to lie down. They played with urgency and flank Schalk Burger’s enthusiastic chasing of the ball from the restart after Mentz’s try led to a try for the Springbok, who with disdain ran over Mentz to fall over.
The Television Match Official was asked to adjudicate and he ruled it was a fair try.
De Waal converted to make the score 12-10. Not even the early loss of wing Nick Koster and then substitute wing Tonderai Chavhanga to injury could derail the determined home team. Centre Gcobani Bobo had to shift to wing to make way for Peter Grant.
Pretorius stretched the lead to 15-10 with a penalty but a try by flank Francois Louw – who instead of Luke Watson started – after sustained pressure leveled the scores. De Waal ensured that his team led for the first time with a penalty after Grant was scragged desperately short of the try-line in the 28th min.
Scrumhalf Jano Vermaak received a yellow card for not rolling away after tackling Grant and the Stormers made hay in his absence via tries by Andries Bekker and Bobo and a conversion by Grant.
The Lions just could not fight back from that deficit and the Stormers, brimming with confidence despite feeling the brunt of referee Craig Joubert’s whistle in the set scrums, started to show off all their attacking skills.
De Waal was instrumental in a lot of the attacking movements and showed his detractors he was capable of playing open, free-flowing rugby. Fullback Percy Montgomery, Brits, De Villiers, Naqelevuki all joined in the fun and had the poor Lions at sixes and sevens with their flair.
The last try, by substitute scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenhage, showed just how good the Stormers can be when they are on song. They were almost audacious in their execution and a more beautiful try you wouldn’t easily see again this season.
Vodacom Stormers – Tries: Gcobani Bobo, Sireli Naqelevuki, Schalk Burger, Andries Bekker (2), Francois Louw, Jean de Villiers, Dewaldt Duvenhage; Conversions: Willem de Waal (1), Peter Grant (4); Penalties: De Waal (2).
Lions – Tries: Louis Ludik, Henno Mentz; Conversion: Andre Pretorius, Penalties: Pretorius (2).