Stormers take Bulls into deep water
The Stormers laid an early marker as one of the teams to watch in Super Rugby by putting away the three-time champion Bulls with ease at Newlands last night.
Playing in an initially one-sided and then pulsating north versus south derby, Robbie Fleck’s men were deserving of the convincing five tries to four win over their old nemesis, the most eye-catching aspect of their performance being how they’ve gone from being ultra-defensive to an out and out attacking side.
Central to the win was an industrious Pieter-Steph du Toit and an encouraging performance by fly half Jean-Luc du Plessis, a man whose all-round game may well take him places this season.
Believe it or not, the Bulls had started the stronger of the two teams, winning the collisions. But then the new-look and multifaceted Stormers kicked into gear in spectacular fashion to all but run away with the game in the first half.
Taking quick penalties to run the heavy and at times seemingly leadenfooted Bulls pack off its feet, they invited the visitors into a spot of touch rugby. Once the Bulls, whose main aim these days appears to be to show that they, too, can joll, accepted the contest was slanted in favour of the fleet footed and skilful hosts (take a bow, Paul Feeney).
Not that the Stormers, who used to boast a “light-five” instead of a tight five in the days the Bulls dominated rugby, shirked the hard yakka all over the pitch. For starters, they dominated the scrums, with JC Janse van Rensburg and former Bulls man Wilco Louw giving the visitors’ props, particularly converted tight head Trevor Nyakane, a proper working over.
The confidence gleaned from that extended to good contesting at the lineout and heavy-handed work at the rucks. As ever, workaholic lock forward Du Toit led the work rate stakes in the tackle count and at hitting rucks.
With that edge in intensity and fleetness of thought and foot, the hosts scored at regular intervals, first through a long-distance effort by SP Marais after a burst of pace by veteran scrum half Jano Vermaak most thought he no longer had.
Cheslin Kolbe from a lovely grubber by promising debutant EW Viljoen and Nizaam Carr were next in for an imposing half-time score, but only then did the Bulls get to work.
To be sure ,they weren’t awful in the first half, but their execution was all over the place and the rustiness of captain and fly half Handrè Pollard – having missed a year of rugby – didn’t help. Pollard, whose passing and kicking both out of hand and at poles was errant, was neater and more direct in the second half.
The results of that were tries by Hanro Liebenberg and Pierre Schoeman, but when Siya Kolisi marked his first game as captain with the Stormers’ bonus point try, the Bulls had left themselves too much to do.