CAPE TOWN – The Stormers awoke from their slumber to claim their first Super Rugby bonus-point win of the season by overcoming the Jaguares 35-8 at Newlands on Friday night.
It was pretty grim fare in the first half for the 10 411 diehards who ventured to the grand old ground on a warm March night, with both teams battling to find their rhythm with ball-in-hand.
In the opening 40 minutes, it appeared as if Robbie Fleck’s men were just intent to secure a victory without trying too many tricks ahead of their four-match tour to New Zealand and Australia.
The Stormers backs in particularly lacked direction, and it will be an ongoing concern for Fleck and attack coach Dawie Snyman that the combination between Jean-Luc du Plessis and Damian de Allende at Nos 10 and 12 is just not gelling at the moment.
Despite the Stormers pack winning the physical battle, with Springboks Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth and Steven Kitshoff prominent, the Cape side again battled to put phases together, with the inevitable knock-on stopping them in their tracks – or a scrappy or lost lineout ball.
So, it was no surprise when they needed a bit of luck to cross the whitewash in the first half, when Jean-Luc du Plessis chipped a ball from a five-metre scrum over the Jaguares backs.
The ball looked like it was covered, but somehow the visitors lost possession, and centre Dan du Plessis was the fortunate recipient who dived over.
Apart from that, it was wing SP Marais who kept the scoreboard moving with three penalties and a conversion for a 16-8 halftime lead.
It was actually the Argentinians who showed their hosts who to make the ball do the work for the opening try, with slick hands seeing Marais slipping, which allowed Bautista Delguy to race through on the right.
But that’s about as good as it got for the Jaguares. They weren’t able to generate front-foot ball, which meant that their dangerous backs were seldom able to test the Stormers defence.
Talking about the latter, the Capetonians did well to rally on the cover a few times in the second half, twice holding the visitors up over the tryline.
The Stormers showed greater urgency in the second half, and made the ideal start when captain Kolisi rumbled away from a maul to force his way over in the 48th minute.
Near the hour-mark, the nippy scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies was rewarded for an industrious display by sneaking over for a five-pointer, and he was cheered off the field when substituted in the final stages of the game.
The Stormers tried hard to clinch a much-needed bonus point in the last 15 minutes, but despite numerous opportunities, they were just unable to finish off.
However, replacement scrumhalf Justin Phillips did the business just before the final whistle following a powerful maul.
Fleck will be delighted that his team are on a winning run ahead of a tour that will see them face the Hurricanes, Blues, Reds and Rebels.
Stormers 35 – Tries: Dan du Plessis, Siya Kolisi, Herschel Jantjies, Justin Phillips. Conversions: SP Marais (2), Jean-Luc du Plessis (1). Penalties: Marais (3).
Jaguares 8 – Try: Bautista Delguy. Penalty: Joaquin Diaz Bonilla (1).