The Stormers blew hot and cold but were ultimately too good for Saracens in their 43-33 victory on Sunday.
The Newlands faithful were stunned to silence when Saracens winger Richard Haughton rounded the Stormers posts in the opening minutes. A kick behind the defence eluded Gcobani Bobo who could only watch as Haughton claimed the loose ball and scored.
But this was a rare incident where the Stormers defence was found wanting. The attack also took a few minutes to gel after several passes hit the deck, but when they got it right, the tiring Saracens defence battled to keep the Stormers runners in check. Sireli Naqelevuki powered through to record the hosts’ first try, while Bobo weaseled his way past several defenders to score in a similar manner.
Flyhalf Glen Jackson kept the tourists in touch with three penalties, and at the end of the first half the Stormers held a 22-16 advantage. The hosts battled in the scrums with late replacement at tighthead Wicus Blaauw taking a pummeling. Saracens were also very competitive at the tackle point, but the summer heat coupled with the fact that they only arrived in Cape Town on Sunday meant they battled to sustain a fierce breakdown effort.
Percy Montgomery had a solid afternoon at fullback and his first touch-finder was loudly cheered by the home crowd. By contrast, Luke Watson was booed every time he carried the ball. Even when Ricky Januarie broke early in the second period and set up Watson to score, the subsequent reaction was a mixture of cheers and jeers. It seems the South African supporters are not willing to forgive Watson for his comments on Springbok rugby and the jersey made last year.
Januarie and Peter Grant were in good touch, and Naqelevuki was a constant threat out wide, but Schalk Brits produced the best performance of the afternoon. The effervescent hooker carried the ball strongly and was menace on defence.
The game began to lose structure in the second half, and some ordinary defending from both teams resulted in several tries. Joe Pietersen scored a good try when the hosts exploited an overlap, but Saracens hit back right away when former Bok flanker Wikus van Heerden muscled his way over from close range.
Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus gave his bench a run in the final quarter, but Tongan recruit Alipate Fatafehi and Nick Koster didn’t receive many opportunities. Jackson’s boot reduced the deficit and gave the scoreline more respectability, but it could not hide the fact that it was a comfortable win for a Stormers side still in second gear.
Stormers – Tries: Sireli Naqelevuki (2), Gcobani Bobo, Schalk Brits, Luke Watson, Joe Pietersen. Conversions: Peter Grant (5). Penalty: Grant.
Saracens - Tries: Richard Haughton, Kameli Ratuvou, Wikus van Heerden. Conversions: Glen Jackson (3). Penalties: Jackson (4).
By Jon Cardinelli