CAPE TOWN – The Stormers were able to back up last week’s spirited display against the Crusaders with a workmanlike 34-15 victory over the Highlanders at Newlands on Saturday.
The win just about keeps the Cape side’s playoff hopes alive, although the Jaguares are now the South African conference leaders after beating the Waratahs.
Coach Robbie Fleck, though, will be delighted with the effort put in by his players, especially as they had to deal with the late withdrawal of Eben Etzebeth – due to flu – which saw Pieter-Steph du Toit move to lock and Kobus van Dyk come in at flank.
Etzebeth’s absence wasn’t too much of a disruption, though, as the Stormers pack of forwards got stuck into their Kiwi opponents.
The Capetonians just appeared the hungrier of the two sides as they won the collisions and marshalled their defence, with skipper Siya Kolisi leading the way, to shut down Waisake Naholo.
The same can’t be said of their attack, though. They relied mainly on individual brilliance from the likes of Seabelo Senatla, Dillyn Leyds and Damian Willemse to provide the spark with ball-in-hand.
Centre Damian de Allende was also a willing workhorse, and he showed some crafty touches with the boot as well.
One such chip nearly resulted in the opening try for Senatla, but the former Blitzbok flyer was adjudged to be ahead of the kicker.
After Marty Banks put the visitors 3-0 up with a penalty after the opening quarter, Senatla did get involved in the first try.
He sniffed around a ruck and broke through the Highlanders defence, feeding Herschel Jantjies, who showed off a nifty sidestep to go all the way – despite a desperate tackle from Aaron Smith.
Josh Stander slotted the conversion and then a penalty to make it 10-3, and the Stormers were well on their way.
The Highlanders were further disrupted when fullback Matt Faddes carried out a tip tackle on De Allende, who landed on his head. Referee Nic Berry dished out just a yellow card, but Faddes was fortunate not to get a red.
The Stormers soon capitalised on their one-man advantage, as De Allende put Kolisi into space, and the captain managed to swivel out of a tackle to dot down.
The Highlanders, though, didn’t concede more points either side of halftime, and then got back into the game at 17-10 in the 52nd minute through a try by centre Sio Tomkinson, following a lineout drive.
But the home team had the greater verve and energy throughout the 80 minutes in front of a sparse 13 028-strong crowd on a sunny, windless day at Newlands, and they hit back within three minutes.
FULL-TIME | STORMERS vs HIGHLANDERS— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) May 25, 2019
Despite a late try for the visitors, the Stormers have secured a comfortable victory in Cape Town, lifting themselves out of bottom spot in the South African conference.
MATCH CENTRE: https://t.co/o87nuneX6F#SuperRugby #STOvHIG pic.twitter.com/gEhGarJJVW
That man Leyds showed once again that he should be considered for the Springbok squad with a scintillating line-break, and flank Cobus Wiese rounded off.
The Stormers needed one more try for a bonus-point win at that stage, but opted for the posts with two subsequent penalties, one of which Jean-Luc du Plessis booted over.
There were some nervy moments when Naholo eventually got his five-pointer, following a strong run by Rob Thompson with 13 minutes to go.
But Du Plessis was the beneficiary of another powerful gallop by De Allende to secure the victory, despite a consolation try by Siate Tokolahi on the buzzer.
There will be some concern for Kolisi, as he did not come out for the second half after receiving treatment before the break.
Stormers 34 – Tries: Herschel Jantjies, Siya Kolisi, Cobus Wiese, Jean-Luc du Plessis. Conversions: Josh Stander (3), Du Plessis (1). Penalties: Stander (1), Du Plessis (1).
Highlanders 22 – Tries: Sio Tomkinson, Waisake Naholo, Siate Tokolahi. Conversions: Marty Banks (1), Dan Hollishead (1). Penalties: Banks (1).@ashfakmohamed