The Stormers rebounded from four defeats on the trot with a workmanlike homecoming victory over Zebre in Stellenbosch on Saturday night.
Despite being boosted by the return of their Springboks and a couple of key players, the Stormers were made to sweat in grinding out a 31-7 victory at the Danie Craven Stadium.
Though the Stormers secured all five log points with a late flurry of tries, it was far from the kind of stylish and accurate performance the scoreline suggests.
John Dobson’s side dominated territory and possession for most of the contest, but struggled to make their punches count, landing plenty of jabs, but never quite knocking the visitors out, mostly due to their high error-rate.
Up against a Zebre side that was coming from conceding nine tries and 61 points against the Lions in Johannesburg, the Stormers were heavy favourites to light things up in their first home game back from a four-week tour of Europe.
However, they struggled to build on Evan Roos’ converted opening try from a powerful five-metre scrum in the 14th minute, which remained the only score on the board until Damian Willemse set up Ruhan Nel with three minutes left to play in the first half.
Dayimani ➕ Willemse ➕ Nel Perfection
— Vodacom United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial_RSA) December 2, 2023
To their credit, Zebre fought valiantly to deny the hosts at crucial periods and carve opportunities where they could despite having a retreating set-piece and being forced to live on scraps for much of the contest. The visitors got a deserved try just before the break, cutting the deficit to just five points at half-time.
Much like in the first half, the Stormers laid an early blow on their opponents in the second half, this time through wing Courtnall Skosan, but again battled to make a plethora of opportunities count.
It was only when Leolin Zas went over with 12 minutes to play that the game really started to open up for the Stormers and Willemse sidestepped his way to the tryline to add further gloss to the scoreline.
The Stormers will next travel to England for their Champions Cup opener against Leicester Tigers on Sunday.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images