Held scoreless in the second half, the Stormers crashed to a third straight Super Rugby defeat after going down 33-15 to the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.
The Stormers scored both their tries in the opening half but the Highlanders illustrated their class and intensity by spreading their scoring.
They scored three in the first half and another two in the second half, with All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith completing his brace on the stroke of full time.
The Stormers put a lot of heat on the Highlanders in the opening 40, restricting the home side to a 19-15 lead, but once No 8 Luke Whitelock scored their fourth try in the 48th minute for a 26-15 lead the Stormers struggled to remain in the contest.
The Stormers were rocked by more injury blows when they lost three players in the 10 minutes before halftime.
Lock Chris van Zyl and flank Kobus van Dyk had to leave proceedings due to concussion while fullback SP Marais sustained a leg injury.
20-year-old Salmaan Moerat impressed on his debut when he replaced Van Zyl.
Who was the star in this match?
Young Stormers flyhalf Damian Willemse and Highlanders wing Waisake Naholo were very impressive, but it was Highlanders talisman Aaron Smith who was at his awesome best. He tormented the visitors with his brilliant play as verbals seemed to work on the nerves of Willemse.
Key moment and themes
- The Stormers showed good energy at the start before the Highlanders rocked them with the opening try in the fourth minute by big flank Liam Squire. Encouragingly though, that didn’t seem to knock them out of their stride.
- The Stormers hit back with their first try by lock Chris van Zyl in the 11th minute after wing Raymond Rhule did great work by whirling himself out of a tackle to tie the scores 5-5.
- Willemse was at hand again in the 16th minute to pick up a loose pass to run almost the length of the field for his team’s second try, leading to an unlikely lead of 12-5.
- The Highlanders showed their class thereafter, exploiting a Stormers defence that was once again wayward. They missed 25 of their 120 tackles and once again failed to give themselves a solid platform by losing four of their line-outs.
Highlanders – Tries: Liam Squire, Aaron Smith (2), Waisake Naholo, Luke Whitelock. conversions: Lima Sopo’aga (4).
Stormers – Tries: Chris van Zyl, Damian Willemse. Conversion: SP Marais. Penalty: Marais.