Cape Town – It took them a while to get going, but in the end the Stormers ran out comfortable 33-9 winners against the Bulls at Newlands on Saturday.
Flyhalf Robert du Preez scored 23 points for Robbie Fleck’s men, who also secured a bonus point with their three tries to the Bulls’ zero.
Newlands had erupted when the Stormers took to the field – the 40 000-strong crowd excited at the prospect of a new era of dynamic, attacking rugby.
The intent was there immediately from the home side as they showed a willingness to run the ball from inside their own 22, but they were met by a strong Bulls defensive line and it was the visitors who drew first blood through a Francois Brummer penalty.
Du Preez showed promising glimpses early on, while fullback Cheslin Kolbe joined the line at every opportunity in an attempt to get the Capetonians moving.
The Bulls, meanwhile, were also looking to run the ball and had a few exciting moments in the opening 20 minutes without any reward.
Du Preez leveled matters with a penalty of his own on 14 minutes after the Bulls were caught offside and the hosts then had the lead for the first time in the match after Bulls skipper Adriaan Strauss was penalised for offside right in front of the posts.
Brummer made it 6-6 before the tempo slowed somewhat as a game of kicking ping-pong ensued.
A Du Preez penalty gave the Stormers their lead back, but at half-time there had been no tries scored in the clash – disappointing given both sides’ declarations pre-season that they wanted to play an exciting brand of rugby.
It wasn’t for lack of effort that the first half went tryless, but more down to a combination of both sides being well structured defensively and the ball being lost at crucial moments.
The second period started in bizarre fashion as Du Preez had a penalty kick sent to the TMO when the assistants were unsure whether it had gone wide or not.
Referee Craig Joubert had a look and felt confident in calling the kick ‘good’, and the Stormers were 12-6 up.
Brummer got one back for the visitors to make it 12-9, and the final half hour was set up.
The crowd got they tries the were looking for soon after.
The Stormers had set up a rolling maul inside the Bulls 22 that sucked in the defence. When the ball was eventually spread wide, Du Preez was on hand as he slipped through a gap and went crashing over the line.
The flyhalf converted his own try, and he was responsible for all of his side’s points as they led 19-9.
The Stormers then turned it on for their second try as substitute as Leolin Zas made the break down the left wing.
When the ball was recycled, Pieter-Steph du Toit offloaded to his lock partner Eben Etzebeth, who barged over.
Du Preez converted and the scoreboard read 26-9 as the Newlands faithful found their voice.
By the end it was the perfect evening as a massive driving maul from the Stormers in the final minutes saw substitute hooker Scarra Ntubeni go over for the Stormers’ third try and a bonus point.
Tries: Robert du Preez, Eben Etzebeth, Scarra Ntubeni
Conversions: Du Preez (3)
Penalties: Du Preez (4)
Penalties: Brummer (3)
15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (co-captain), 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble
Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Frans Malherbe (co-captain), 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Leolin Zas
15 Warrick Gelant , 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Nic de Jager, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), Trevor Nyakane
Substitutes: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Burger Odendaal