The Stormers scored five tries as the SA Conference leaders banked the bonus point for the second time this season, the first since beating the Waratahs 32-18 in Sydney last month.
The Stormers went into the match having scored seven tries in their last five matches combined, and the haul against the Cheetahs marked the first time the Cape side scored five tries since a 40-3 win against the Rebels in 2011.
The timing of the milestone couldn’t be any better as the Stormers are locked in a tight race to finish second overall, and thus book a home semi-final.
It was tighthead prop Vincent Koch who dived across the line for the bonus-point try, and he was joined by centre Damian de Allende and replacement flanker Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
Flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis didn’t miss, converting all seven of his attempts at goal, including four conversions and three penalties.
Back-row ball-carriers Boom Prinsloo and Carel Greeff crossed for the Cheetahs, while former Stormers pivot Joe Pietersen added one conversion.
Koch was promoted to start at tighthead prop in one of three changes to the Stormers side, and the scrum continued to operate at full force.
Cheetahs props Danie Mienie and Maks van Dyk often found themselves on the wrong side of referee Craig Joubert’s whistle as they tried to divert the pressure exerted on them at the shoving contest.
Hooker Scarra Ntubeni spoke during the week of the benefit of having simplified the line-out system and, though it was not perfect, Manuel Carizza and Eben Etzebeth were at the apex of an efficient unit.
Ntubeni also promised that the Stormers would not underestimate their rivals, in what was Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske’s last match in charge, after “a lack of respect” had led to a surprise 25-17 loss in Bloemfontein four rounds ago.
But from the moment Joubert signalled the start of the match, the Stormers showed the Cheetahs defence no respect.
De Allende spearheaded a free-range attack that tallied up carries against a Free State side that didn’t look hungry to tackle.
By half-time, the Cheetahs had missed 14 of 88 attempted tackles, conceding line-breaks and penalties at an unsustainable rate.
One of these transgressions allowed Catrakilis to split the uprights with his 50th successful place-kick of the season. Pietersen restarted with a deep drop-kick and the Stormers moved the ball wide to spark an exhilarating 80-metre counter-strike. Copybook catch-and-pass from Ntubeni and De Allende put Dillyn Leyds into space near the touchline and the right winger hacked ahead. Juan de Jongh collected and De Allende jinxed before offloading, and quick hands brought Senatla into the attack on the right touchline, the SA Sevens speedster overpowering his opposite number to score in the corner.
Two more Catrakilis penalties gave the hosts a 16-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, and the visitors opened the next 20-minute spell with a converted try. Prinsloo powered over in the tail of a driven line-out set up by a run of three successive penalties against the Stormers.
But poor set-piece execution saw the Cheetahs lose an attacking line-out to an overthrow, and De Allende once again generated a line-break.
The foray led to a five-metre scrum, Stormers feed, and this was the platform Senatla used to round off the move by dotting down.
Catrakilis converted for a 23-7 lead at the break, and that advantage became even more insurmountable for the Cheetahs when, seven minutes after the restart, flanker Henco Venter was sin-binned for what Joubert deemed to be a dangerous tackle on Cheslin Kolbe.
Minutes later, Catrakilis put a penalty into touch on the Cheetahs five-metre line, Manuel Carizza rose to claim the throw-in, and De Allende bumped off a tackler for the try.
Koch then scored his first Super Rugby try.
The applause had barely died down when De Jongh cut the line from another fine Stormers first-phase strike and Notshe beat the cover defence for the tryline.
Replacement flyhalf Kurt Coleman skewed the conversion, and Greeff crawled across for a consolation try, as the Stormers jogged off with an emphatic victory and a comfortable lead in the SA Conference.
Original source: Five-try Stormers eye home semis