Storm­ers take Bulls into deep wa­ter

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XA­BAN­ISA sports@city­press.co.za

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.

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