The high-flying Highlanders were brought back down to earth by the Stormers after losing 18-6 in another Cape Town kickathon.
The high-flying Highlanders were brought back down to earth by the Stormers after losing 18-6 in another Cape Town kickathon on Friday.
There were no tries scored at Newlands for the second week running, and like last week it was up to Stormers pivot Peter Grant to contribute all his side's points.
Grant kicked six penalties – missing only one attempt – whilst Highlanders fly-half Robbie Robinson could only manage two successful shots at goal.
The Highlanders enjoyed a fair amount of possession in the early stages and they soon discovered that their cavalier brand of rugby – which knocked the stuffing out of the Bulls last week – was not going make an impact against the solid defence of the Stormers who, nevertheless, had to make an endless number of tackles.
The Stormers, on the other hand, were content to absorb the early pressure and were less adventurous with ball in hand.
In their efforts to crack the Stormers' defence, the Highlanders often tried to force openings without success and, in the process, they committed infringements in various areas of the game.
Their indiscretions were proving costly as Grant steered three penalties through the posts inside the opening 20 minutes for a 9-0 lead.
Gio Aplon signalled his return to Super Rugby after an injury lay-off with a dazzling run inside the Highlanders 22-metre area and the 33,000-strong crowd rose to their feet to applaud the diminutive Stormers full-back.
However, his enterprising run came to nought as his support was thwarted by the Highlanders' defence two metres from their tryline.
The Stormers too were punished for their shortcomings and Robinson was on target twice in the space of eight minutes (9-6).
Just before half-time, a fracas broke out and referee Steve Walsh sent locks Andries Bekker (Stormers) and Jarrad Hoeata (Highlanders) to the sin bin. With the yellow cards, came a Stormers penalty which Grant goaled to give his lead a 12-6 halftime lead.
The Stormers took time to settle down after the restart and the Highlanders made all the early second-half running. The pressure they created forced the Stormers into mistakes around their 10-metre line but they enjoyed a let-off – three times – as the Highlanders failed to land any of their penalty attempts.
The stubborn Stormers' defence and their inability to convert their penalty opportunities seemed to be sapping the resolve in the Highlanders' ranks.
The Stormers looked far more composed and were far more patient in their efforts to gain the initiative. There was a wonderful break by Grant to spark off a telling Stormers sortie which was checked five metres out when Aplon was brought down by the cover defence.
Grant was once more on target in the 55th minute (15-6) after which the Stormers produced several passages of play which often looked capable of breaching the opposition defence.
Just on the hour, the Highlanders bounced back with a wave of attacks into the Stormers' 22, but their repetitive crash-ball runs made no impact.
Around the 65th minute mark, the Stormers lost their second prop (JC Kritzinzer and earlier CJ van der Linde) through injury and the match progressed with uncontested scrums.
It detracted from the spectacle somewhat but the keen competitive edge of both sides ensured that the defence could not afford to lapse.
For good measure, the Stormers crowned their closing efforts with three more points via yet another Grant penalty ahead of the final whistle.
Pens: Grant 6
Pens: Robinson 2
Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Juan De Jongh, 12 Jean De Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermuelen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Pieter Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 CJ van Der Linde.
Replacements: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Frans Malherbe / JC Kritzinger, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Nick Koster, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Gary Van Aswegen, 22 Jaque Fourie.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 James Paterson, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Robbie Robinson, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (capt).
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 John Hardie, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Tony Brown, 22 Telusa Veainu.
Referee: Steve Walsh