CAPE TOWN – The Stormers needed a confidence boost before playing the Bulls away, and their 25-18 win over the Reds at Newlands on Saturday should have done the trick in that regard.
It was another powerful first-half performance by the Stormers, and when the second half kicked off, they didn’t look as threatening at the very start as they did in the opening half.
The Reds – who were 18-7 down at halftime – scored three tries in the second stanza.
But before concerns about an unwanted trend emerging could set in (the Stormers looking good in the first half and then going flat in the second), wing Raymond Rhule scored a brilliant try, and the Stormers held on and pulled out more of that first-half form as the second progressed.
Speaking of Rhule…
The Stormers forwards have often stolen the show and the headlines with their heroic work, but after this win, it should be the backs who enjoy a bit of the limelight.
To be fair, it’s not like they shone while the forwards were poor. In fact, it was a good all-round performance at Newlands.
The forwards showed their worth, especially at set-piece time, as their lineouts functioned well, and they also produced a couple of huge scrums.
But, back to that backline.
There were a number of attacks from the men at the back, and they held their own against a Reds side that didn’t lack dangerous backs either.
Craig Barry, who was set to start at fullback in the place of Dillyn Leyds (calf injury), was a late shift to right wing after JJ Engelbrecht was withdrawn due to a quadriceps injury, which saw George Whitehead come in at No 15.
Barry made his first Stormers start a top one. His work-rate was high, and he showed that he can be a big asset to Robbie Fleck’s team. His on-field presence was massive.
Among his many fine touches, the one that stood out the most was his fantastic grubber (which went in between two defenders, by the way) that set left wing and Man-of-the-Match Rhule up for a superb touchdown after a monster scrum from the pack in the Reds 22 before they swung it wide.
Rhule didn’t just lend that one hand to the Stormers’ cause – he also played a role in a potent counter that led to the first try by scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage, and his sharpness on attack, particularly as a finisher, was clear to see.
The Stormers’ handling was also impressive, with an example of that being their first try when a string of couldn’t-have-been-timed-better passes by Rhule and outside centre EW Viljoen – who was also superb – resulted in points.
Flyhalf Damian Willemse again didn’t disappoint.
The Stormers showed great composure and ball retention in the build-up to their second try, and an absolutely stunning line kick by Willemse got the hosts into the opposition 22, and they stayed there for quite some time until tighthead prop Wilco Louw’s went over.
The Bok prop’s five-pointer came after the Stormers kept it tight, and Willemse got the ball from the base and deceived defenders yet again before being stopped just short of the tryline.
Louw then used his strength to force his way over the whitewash.
In the first half especially, Willemse’s footwork caused a couple of headaches for the Reds.
So, as the Stormers shift their focus to their away game against the Bulls at Loftus next weekend, let’s hope we see more productions like those from the backs.
And the forwards, of course. In the first and second half.
Stormers 25 – Tries: Dewaldt Duvenage, Wilco Louw, Raymond Rhule. Conversions: Willemse (2). Penalties: Willemse (2).
Reds 18 – Tries: Caleb Timu, Alex Mafi, Filipo Daugunu. Conversions: Jono Lance (2).