A physically and tactically superior Stormers side secured the bonus point in their 37-13 spanking of the Hurricanes.
A small sector of the 45 000-strong crowd came to Newlands for what newspaper billboards predicted as a ‘Hurricane warning’. Those South Africans supporting the men in yellow left disappointed, as the Hurricanes never mustered as much as a breeze.
The Stormers were the team that entertained the crowd, but the platform for a spectacular running performance was established through a drive for territory and a clinical forward showing. They cashed in on an early opportunity when the Canes impeded in the first minute, and scored a beautiful try on their next visit to the opposition 22.
The forwards were typically aggressive at the breakdown, and although they didn’t always end up on the right side of referee Steve Walsh, it was their victory at this battle that determined the greater outcome.
Francois Louw made a magnificent steal deep in the Canes’ 22, and the ball was flung as far as outside centre Jaque Fourie. The Springbok fixed his defender before floating the pass to Pietersen, who in turn found Sireli Naqelevuki with the perfect offload.
The big Fijian has been criticised for his relaxed running style, but on this occasion, he could do no wrong. The Canes’ kickers targeted his wing but Naqelevuki often beat the poor kick chase once securing the catch. He was also involved in the Stormers’ second try in the 31st minute when he carried two defenders on his back and handed Pietersen the final pass.
The hosts had ample opportunities which they failed to finish, but they managed to retain possession through their almost masochistic approach to the breakdown and kamikaze-style defence. The visitors made too many errors in Stormers’ territory to build sufficient pressure, and rightly went to the break with a measly three points.
Pietersen missed the first two conversions, but the manner in which the Stormers finished the first half rendered the misses inconsequential.
A lineout on halfway was collected and driven 40m before the ball emerged and travelled towards Bryan Habana’s wing. The Canes’ defence looked to have Habana covered, but a quick recycle saw Dewaldt Duvenage exploiting a massive hole in the flyhalf channel. Duane Vemeulen scored his try unopposed, an atypical score considering how prominently he featured as ground-gaining ball carrier early in the fixture.
The Canes spent the first 10 minutes of the second half camped in the red zone, but determined defence and pressure-enforced errors kept them tryless.
Fourie had an outstanding game as did his centre partner Juan de Jongh. The hard-running youngster got close to scoring in the 53rd minute, as did Brok Harris from the ensuing pick and go. TMO Shaun Veldsman ruled the ball was knocked on, much to the crowd’s annoyance.
But the Stormers stayed hungry, and their territorial and forward dominance continued to irk the out-muscled and out-thought Canes. The visitors failed to collect a loose ball which was hacked and gathered by Peter Grant. Although stopped short, the support arrived in the form of Harris, who wasn’t to be denied a second time.
The score secured the bonus point, and all that remained was for the Stormers to keep the Canes honest in the final quarter. Captain Schalk Burger weighed in with some brutal hits and his team-mates took a cue from his sustained intensity. The Canes continued to blunder, and dangermen like Ma’a Nonu were played out of the game.
David Smith touched down in the 68th minute and Tyson Keats on full-time, tries that cost the Stormers their second consecutive clean sheet. But considering the Canes’ attacking reputation and penchant for pinching tries at the death, the Stormers will be proud to have kept them to two tries. The Stormers also scored their fifth when Fourie ran an angle and powered through the exhausted Canes defence.
The performance is the Stormers’ best to date, and a massive result considering they’ve beaten two traditional giants, the Waratahs and Canes, by a comfortable margin. They’ll be favourites to take the Cheetahs next week, and with that result they’ll head on their Australasian tour with a record of five victories from six matches.
Their attack still isn’t perfect. Ball was spilled in contact and the lineout wobbled on a few occasions, and if synergy is their goal they’ll need to eliminate those errors.
What is a big plus is the Stormers’ defence is still king, as they’ve only conceded four tries in five games. If they can keep the current line-up together, they’re going to be extremely tough to beat.
By Jon Cardinelli