South Africa’s Western Stormers overpowered the Melbourne Rebels 40-3 to march into the Super 15 top two in Melbourne yesterday.
The Cape Town franchise won their third match of a four-match Australasian tour by an emphatic five tries to nil to consolidate their lead at the top of the South African Conference with two matches to the playoffs.
The Stormers also held the disjointed Rebels try-less with their impregnable wall of defense and have conceded just 13 tries in 14 matches this campaign — by far the best in the southern hemisphere championship.
Led by Springbok wrecking-ball flanker Schalk Burger, the Stormers had too much organization and sheer physical power, reducing the Rebels to a rabble.
The Stormers led 16-3 at halftime and clinched their scoring bonus point three minutes from fulltime when replacement flanker Nick Koster scooted over after a strong sideline break by powerhouse Andries Bekker.
The South Africans’ other tries came from Springboks Bryan Habana, Jaque Fourie and Jean de Villiers and a first Super rugby touchdown for young fly-half Kurt Coleman.
Coleman finished with 18 points from his try, two conversions and three penalties.
“It was a good tour for us, we got three out of four wins, that’s fantastic, so it’s back to Cape Town for a couple of big local derbies against the Bulls and the Cheetahs,” Burger said. “Our attack is something we have been improving on, I think we have been creating a few chances, but just not using them and we still left quite a few out there, but at least we got some tries tonight. We base ourselves around our defense and it’s something that really gets the team going and we pride ourselves in it.”
The Rebels are at the bottom of the Australian Conference with just three wins in their debut Super 15 season. Skipper Stirling Mortlock said he was very disappointed with his team’s effort.
“In the second half, we made a lot of mistakes and we had some loose attacking structures and they capitalized,” Mortlock said. “They are extremely good in scavenging off your mistakes and tonight we made too many of those and didn’t create enough of our own, so it’s disappointing.”
The clueless Rebels lacked the creative flair of banished English international flyhalf Danny Cipriani, who sat out his fourth consecutive game for the new franchise amid his continuing disciplinary issues.
Julian Huxley, Cipriani’s replacement at number 10, had a poor game and kicked the Rebels’ only points with a penalty goal in the 14th minute.
The Stormers will take on defending champions Northern Bulls in Cape Town next weekend in a highly-anticipated showdown, while the Rebels travel to Canberra to take on the ACT Brumbies.
HIGHLANDERS VS FORCE
Two second-half David Smith tries helped the Western Force stun the Otago Highlanders 21-14 yesterday, ruining the home side’s Carisbrook farewell and dealing a massive blow to their Super Rugby playoff hopes.
Winger Smith scored his second with a blistering run from inside his own half with seven minutes remaining to give his side the lead for the first time in the match as they scored 18 unanswered second half points to claim victory.
Stand-in flyhalf James Stannard was again outstanding for a Perth-based outfit, whose hopes of postseason play long since disappeared, kicking 11 points, but more importantly kept the Force’s backline moving all evening.