Highlanders inflict Stormers’ third tour defeat from three
The Stormers slumped to their 10th straight loss in New Zealand losing 33-15 to the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.
The defeat was their third of their three-match tour while they also endured more injuries with lock Chris van Zyl and fullback SP Marais crying off before half time.
The Highlanders punished numerous Stormers mistakes on their way to five tries with scrumhalf Aaron Smith scoring a brace.
The Stormers were largely the architects of their own problems as their lineout again malfunctioned‚ which gifted easy possession to the home team while their wide defence was exposed again.
Wing Waisake Naholo ran straight over opposite number Raymond Rhule on his way to a try while the Highlanders made inroads in the wider channels all night to pressurise the Stormers’ defence.
It was always going to be a tough tour for the Stormers but coming away with only a single bonus point from their first match against the Waratahs has heaped pressure on the team and coach Robbie Fleck.
The continuing lineout problems‚ exacerbated by injuries to first choice locks Eben Etzebeth‚ JD Schickerling and Pieter-Steph du Toit as well as to Bok hooker Bongi Mbonambi‚ has contributed to the malaise.
But the problems persist with three balls lost‚ at times when then the Stormers had an opportunity to turn the screw.
Flyhalf Damian Willemse was one of the few bright lights for the Stormers with an assured display both on attack and defence.
His ability to wriggle through small gaps on attack caused some problems. But it was a vain battle against a team that swamped the Stormers in most other areas.
The Highlanders made nine line breaks – an unacceptable count – forcing the Stormers into frantic periods of scrambling defence‚ and inevitably to tries for the hosts.
Flank Liam Squire set the home team off to a good start with a try in the fourth minute but the Stormers struck back within minutes when Van Zyl scored after an impressive period of possession.
Rhule made a clever final offload after scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage’s sublime behind-the-back pass that created just enough space on the short side for the try to be scored.
The Stormers then hit front when Willemse pounced on a loose ball 65 metres out and showed good pace to score.
The Stormers’ lead only lasted a four minutes before Aaron Smith went in for his first try before Marais gave the Stormers the lead again with a 32nd-minute penalty.
But from the restart Naholo collected a contestable kick launched by Duvenage from just inside his own 22-metre area‚ and two passes later was in for a simple try.
After half time is was all the Highlanders as the Stormers increasingly battled to exit their own red zone.
The only surprise was that the Highlanders only scored twice more‚ although they wasted several gilt-edged chances through poor execution.
Highlanders - Tries: Liam Squire‚ Aaron Smith (2)‚ Waisake Naholo‚ Luke Whitelock. Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (4).
Stormers – Tries: Chris van Zyl‚ Damian Willemse. Conversion: SP Marais. Penalty: Marais.