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Magical Manie has rabbits by the ears as ruthless Stormers thrash hapless Sharks

Manie Libbok. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

Manie Libbok. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

South Africa’s first coastal derby of the current URC season was, unwittingly so, billed as the match that was going to determine who between the Sharks and Stormers are most capable of absorbing the absence of their myriad Springboks.

By late Saturday afternoon, a stunned King’s Park faithful had to concede that it’s definitely not their side.

In emphatically winning 46-19, John Dobson’s troops showcased that they’re undeniably still the team to beat in the South African shield, let alone that they’ll give up their title from last year.

RECAP | URC – Sharks v Stormers

They had come into this skirmish with the mental scars of a bruising 5-35 loss to Ulster, the absence of their regular national players and then the late withdrawal of Hacjivah Dayimani.

None of those inconveniences were apparent.

As early as the second minute, Manie Libbok – a high-profile returnee – stamped what would be his considerable authority on the match with a magical sleight of hand, first fielding poor kick from Thaakir Abrahams and then dummying past a flailing Hyron Andrews arm to set Herschel Jantjies up with the opening score.

He would cross the whitewash on his own in the third quarter when he feasted on an errant, ill-conceived off-load by the Durbanites’ replacement pivot Lionel Cronje though that score felt like a mere bonus for the work they’d put in between.

The irony about the Stormers’ performance was that they were generally starved of ball – 38% – and even found themselves pinned in their own half – 36% territory – but were never in trouble because when they were in a position to strike, they did so with ruthless efficiency.

Ruben van Heerden, making a triumphant return to his old hunting ground, made full use of a delightful inside pass from a prone Libbok to demolish the hapless Andrews and barge over, before forward dominance – a feature of the Stormers’ play on the day – led to Joseph Dweba’s efficient rounding off of a maul.

Armed with a 24-7 lead at half-time, the Stormers made sure of the result with Seabelo Senatla’s try, a sequence featuring a superb floated pass by Clayton Blommetjies and brilliant stepping from the former Blitzboks star, and the flyer was at it again in commencing a counter in the 22 that saw him using his neat footwork again to put Suleiman Hartzenberg away.

It was breathtaking stuff.

But that still should pale in comparison with just how well the Stormers’ system works when they’re on song. 

Six tries were a stark expression of that, but they also dominated at scrum time and tackled like men possessed, boasting a 92% completion rate and winning 7 turnovers.

Say what you want about depth – every player in Dobson’s squad is on the exact same page.

Which is perhaps the problem with the Sharks currently.

Yes, there’s a discernible gap in their resources when the Boks aren’t around yet as last week’s gutsy effort in Edinburgh showed, it doesn’t mean they should lack firepower to this extent.

This very much felt like a playing architecture problem.

And it might see them miss out on the playoffs…  

Point scorers:

Sharks – 19 (7)

Tries: Gerbrandt Grobler (2), Dan Jooste

Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2)

Stormers – 46 (24)

Tries: Herschel Jantjies, Ruben van Heerden, Joseph Dweba, Seabelo Senatla, Suleiman Hartzenberg, Manie Libbok

Conversions: Libbok (4), Clayton Blommetjies

Penalties: Libbok (2)

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