The Stormers got their Vodacom Super 14 campaign off to a winning start when they beat a woeful Cats side 23-12 at Ellis Park on Saturday.
It was a scrappy contest, full of mistakes, and a poor advertisment of South African rugby. In fact, the highlight of the game was probably the sound of the final whistle.
The tone for the 80 minutes was set when Luke Watson knocked on from the kick off. Tiaan Snyman put the Cats into the lead with a penalty on the eight-minute mark after the Stormers collapsed a rolling maul, but that was as good as it got for the Jozi franchise.
Cats winger Jorrie Muller has copped a lot of abuse from the readers of this website, and it was his blunder that resulted in the Stormers first try. Muller failed to take an up-and-under and the loose ball was hacked deep into the Cats half. A retreating Earl Rose picked up at the second attempt and passed behind his tryline to Jaque Fourie, who put in a desperate kick. The Stormers, however, reclaimed possession inside Cats territory and swung it wide to Adri Badenhorst, who put Bolla Conradie away for the five-pointer. Peter Grant converted and the visitors led 7-3 after 17 minutes.
Stormers hooker Hanyani Shimange hobbled off the field soon after, which saw Schalk Brits make an early appearance on his former home ground. Shimmie’s throwing at the line-out was accurate and he was heavily involved in loose play, so for him to leave the field so early on was a major disappointment for his supporters.
The visitors continued to dominate possession and were rewarded for their efforts when a high tackle from Wayne Julies on Werner Greeff saw Grant knock over his second penalty 10 minutes before half-time.
Then came a brain explosion from new Stormers wing Ryno Benjamin, who took Rose out long after the Cats fullback had kicked for touch. Snyman stepped up to where the ball landed and kicked the penalty to make it 10-6.
The Cats were given another boost when De Wet Barry was shown a yellow card for going into a ruck head-first. The touch judge seemed convinced it deserved 10-minutes in the sin bin, but TV replays showed the decision to be harsh.
If the Cats had hoped to fight their way back into the game against 14 men, they were to be disappointed as a poor pass from Snyman was intercepted by Jean de Villiers, who ran 50m to score under the posts. Grant converted and the visitors were out to a commanding 17-6 lead.
Not content with throwing away seven points, Snyman tried to commit rugby suicide again seconds before the break when his pathetic grubber rebounded into the hands of Benjamin. Unfortunately for the Stormers, Watson failed to take the winger’s pass and De Villiers knocked on with the tryline in sight.
A Grant penalty soon after the restart gave the Stormers a comfortable 20-6 advantage, before Snyman got three points back with his third penalty.
Benjamin then came agonisingly close to scoring his first Super 14 try, after a clever grubber from Jongi Nokwe went down the right-hand touchline towards the tryline. However, just as Benjamin prepared to collect the ball, it bounced the wrong way and the chance was lost.
Five minutes later, the Cats almost scored themselves when Snyman kicked into the path of Wylie Human. The former Bath winger chipped over the cover defence, but was eventually beaten to the ball in the deadball area. However, the Cats kept up the pressure and were rewarded with a penalty right in front, which Snyman kicked to reduce the gap to eight points.
Grant then missed his first attempt of the day when his penalty kick went left of the uprights, before Snyman failed with two shots at goal that would have brought the Cats back within striking distance.
A third penalty from Grant, with seven minutes to go, put the result beyond doubt and consigned the Cats to their first home defeat of the season.
Cats – Penalties: Snyman (4).
Stormers – Tries: Bolla Conradie, Jean de Villiers. Conversions: Peter Grant (2). Penalties: Grant (3).
Yellow card: De Wet Barry (38th min)