Stormers end marathon overseas drought against Rebels in Melbourne
The Stormers ended an 11-match Super Rugby losing streak outside of South Africa with a deserved 41-24 victory over Australian pacesetters the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday.
The tourists‚ playing the fourth and final match of what has been a tough tour‚ scored five tries off the back of superb defence to steady their season.
After six away games in the opening half of the season‚ the Stormers can now look forward to six home matches out of the next eight fixtures and could still make a run for the playoffs.
It was a youthful Stormers team that faced Australia’s top side and despite seeing little of the ball in the first half – the Rebels enjoyed 72% possession – the Stormers led 10-3 at the break.
Wing Dillyn Leyds‚ who was at his visionary and slippery best on the day‚ scored the opening try when he collected a loose ball 35 metres from the Rebels line and made a cutting run to the line.
It was a microcosm of the Stormers’ display. They survived off scraps and made the most of the meagre possession they had. The Stormers made 187 tackles at 95% completion‚ including a scarcely believable 20 dominant hits.
Coach Robbie Fleck is under pressure and there are suggestions that his successor‚ John Dobson‚ might be asked to take over when they return home rather than wait until 2020.
If that happens‚ Fleck will at least know that he never lost the dressing room because it was a belligerent defensive performance that only a tightly-knit team could pull off.
The Stormers smothered and frustrated the Rebels and were highly effective over the ball. Hooker Bongi Mbonambi won two penalties and made a turnover at the breakdown‚ while there were several other turnovers.
The young loose trio of Ernst van Rhyn‚ Jaco Coetzee and Kobus van Dyk were excellent in scavenging as a unit. Coetzee‚ though‚ suffered a massive knee injury and could miss the rest of the campaign.
Five tries in all was nearly half of the Stormers’ season tally of 11 going into the match. It was just reward for a much more clinical and patient display off the back of some fine individual performances.
After the break the Stormers made the worst possible restart when flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis’s long pass was intercepted by Rebels fullback Reece Hodge to level the scores.
But the Stormers never wilted‚ and if anything their huge defensive effort seemed to energise them.
Three tries in the space of nine minutes‚ starting with a neatly-worked try for Coetzee’s replacement Juarno Augustus in the 47th minute‚ effectively killed off the match.
Leyds and impressive fullback Damian Willemse combined to put Augustus away down the short side. It was probably the first of many Super Rugby tries for the former Junior World Player of the Year.
Minutes later centre Damian de Allende then stepped his way through a confused Rebels defensive line for the Stormers’ third before Ruhan Nel scored the first of his brace two minutes later.
The Rebels scored two late tries through Will Genia and Campbell Magay to restore some respectability but Nel had the final say.
He intercepted a pass as the Rebels desperately flung the ball wide in an effort to secure a losing bonus point‚ which gave the final score the gloss it deserved.
Rebels – Tries: Reece Hodge‚ Will Genia‚ Campbell Magay. Conversions: Quade Cooper (3).Penalty: Cooper
Stormers – Tries: Dillyn Leyds‚ Juarno Augustus‚ Damian de Allende‚ Ruhan Nel (2): Conversions: Jean-Luc du Plessis (2)‚ Joshua Stander (3). Penalties: Du Plessis‚ Stander.