On a lovely winter’s afternoon at Newlands – sunny, cool and windless – the Stormers beat the Highlanders 34-22 but they deserved more than a 12-point victory against the team from Dunedin. The Stormers were too good. They were faster, stronger and more creative than their opponents, suggesting that things they are achanging at the foot of Africa.
It is the Stormers’ second really good performance in a row, following last week’s draw with the Crusaders. Perhaps this will be the dawn of consistency for the team that earlier this year lost to the Brumbies at Newlands and was smashed by the Bulls up at Loftus.
The Highlanders had selected Josh Ioane at flyhalf but he had not recovered sufficiently from a hematoma and Marty Banks came off the bench into flyhalf, his place on the bench taken by Dan Hollinshead
The Stormers also started with a setback. Springbok Eben Etzebeth was late withdrawal. As a result, Kobus Wiese moved from flank to lock, Kobus van Dyk moved up off the bench and Johan du Toit came onto the bench, the brother of Pieter-Steph who played his 50th game for the Stormers.
There were two other setbacks of a kind for the Stormers during the match. Speedster Seabelo Senatla twice sprinted over for long-range tries. Twice the matter was referred to the TMO and twice the “try” was disallowed, once for a minuscule offside, once for a bit of a knock-on by JJ Engelbrecht.
True, the Highlanders also came close when burly Waisake Naholo had an overlap and charged down the right. Dillyn Leyds tackled him but he got a pass infield Elliot Dixon knocked on at the goal-line..
Then Senatla was turned down for the first time. The Stormers were going right. Damian de Allende held back slightly in self-control and chipped a delicate chip to his right, Senatla got the bouncing ball and ran round under the posts. But the TMO’s replay showed that Senatla’s right foot was millimetres ahead of De Allende’s foot when he kicked the ball.
The Highlanders scored first when Banks kicked a penalty against Wiese from the half-way line. 3-0 after 18 minutes.
The Stormers were punching at the Highlanders to good effect, dominating tackles, and when Senatla burst through two would-be tacklers he was free and gave to scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies who raced for the posts. Tackled by Aaron Smith, the Stormer’s momentum carried him over the line near the posts. The Stormers led 7-3 after 20 minutes, a lead they did not relinquish.
The home side came back on the attack and, when the Highlanders were penalised slap in front of their posts, Leyds tapped and darted for the line. He was pulled down, and the Highlanders were penalised for not being 10 metres back. Strauss goaled. 10-3 after 24 minutes.
Matt Faddes was sent to the sin bin for a tip tackle, and while he was absent, the Stormers scored their second try, which was similar to the one they scored against the Crusaders last week.
From a line-out on the Stormers right, De Allende gave Siya Kolisi a well-timed, little pass and the flank broke through. Jordan Hyland caused him to stumble and Smith grabbed him but the flank was over for a try under the posts. 17-3 after 33 minutes, the half-time score.
Later Kolisi was injured and replaced by Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
Early in the second half Senatla thought he had scored when he had galloped through 50 empty metres to ground the ball at the posts, only for it not to be allowed because of a knock-on.
Instead it was the Highlanders who scored next. The mauled a lineout and bashed till Sio Tomkinson forced his way through De Allende and Engelbrecht to score. 17-10 after 52 minutes.
Leyds sold a dummy and broke brilliantly on the Highlanders’ 10-metre line. He gave to lock Wiese who, smiling, scored. 24-10, which became 27-10 when Jean-Luc du Plessis, substituting for Strauss, goaled a penalty against Tyrel Lomax for tackling Engelbrecht who did not have the ball.
The Highlanders went through advancing phases and Naholo plunged over for his first try in Super Rugby 2019. 27-15 with 13 minutes to play.
The Stormers fourth try was spectacular. It started just inside the Stormers’ half with a clean break by De Allende. He gave to Notshe who was tackled but in a flash Jantjies passed to Du Plessis on his left and Carel’s son sped over for a try which he then converted.
Time was up as the Highlanders tapped a penalty five metres from the Stormers’ line and big Siate Tokolahi plunged and scored, their third try from close quarters. Hollinshead converted and final whistle went.
Man of the Match: Aaron Smith was again the best of the Highlanders. On the Stormers side there were several excellent performers, especially Damian de Allende, Steven Kitshoff and our choice, Herschel Jantjies, who does all that a scrumhalf should do and is an attacking force to boot.
For the Stormers:
Tries: Jantjies, Kolisi, Wiese, Du Plessis
Cons: Stander 3, Du Plessis
Pens: Stander, Du Plessis
For the Highlanders:
Tries: Tomkinson, Naholo, Tokolahi
Cons: Banks, Hollinshead
Yellow card: Matt Faddes (Highlanders, 27 – foul play, tip tackle)