Stormers keep faint play-offs ambitions alive with win over Bulls in epic derby
This was like north/south derbies of yesteryear with Test match-like intensity and a crackling atmosphere that showed Super Rugby and the Stormers are not yet dead thanks to their 29-17 victory.
Stormers captain Siya Kolisi said he would only celebrate his 100th cap with a win and his team duly delivered thanks to heroic defence and a pack that mowed down the Bulls’ eight. Not even a yellow card to hooker Ramone Samuels‚ who otherwise had an impressive game‚ was enough to derail the Stormers who scored scored four tries to the Bulls two and kept their flickering play-off hopes alive. The Stormers made over 150 tackles at a 93% completion and kept the Bulls without a bonus point‚ something which could be crucial in the play-off race.
It was the Stormers' seventh straight win over the Bulls at Newlands stretching back to 2011. Stormers coach Robbie Fleck has asked his team for a fast start after recent defeats were largely the fault of starting matches slowly. The players duly delivered with lock Chris van Zyl barding over in the second minute only for the score to be disallowed because of a forward pass from scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage. But it mattered little as the Stormers scrum drove the Bulls off their own ball close to their line.
Duvenage found flyhalf Damian Willemse‚ who ghosted outside Jesse Kriel to score. Willemse converted and seven minutes later the Stormers crossed the line again.
This time there was no ghosting‚ only brute power as the magnificent tight head Wilco Louw took the ball at pace and scattered Bulls tacklers to dot down. But John Mitchell’s Bulls are a resilient bunch and despite struggling for early possession and territory‚ even though they had a significant wind at their backs‚ they caused some problems off scraps. The narrow Stormers defence was stretched at times but the Bulls’ lone first half try came from a more direct route. Lock Lood de Jager‚ who is having a whale of a season‚ ran a straight line that would have made any international centre proud onto Handre Pollard’s beautifully arrowed pass that cut out two Stormers defenders. Pollard added a long-range penalty six minutes before the break‚ which was the result of a late tackle by Samuels.
The front rower was sin-binned for the act‚ which was a particularly harsh decision. The Stormers managed Samuels’ absence well to halftime with Duvenage throwing in at the next Stormers lineout and No 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe having a try disallowed for a knock-on.
It was a correct call. The momentum though was with the visitors and they hit the front for the first time early in the second half when flank Jason Jenkins ran a good line to score under the sticks. But the lead lasted 54 seconds as fullback SP Marais rounded off the Stormers’ third try from the restart‚ which preceded some good work by centre Damian de Allende to set Marais free. The Stormers have seldom defended as well this season and after repelling wave after wave of Bulls attacks‚ they finally put some daylight between the sides when Samuels finished off another well worked move with less than quarter of the game to go.
Scorers: Stormers – Tries: Damian Willemse‚ Wilco Louw‚ SP Marais‚ Ramone Samuels. Conversions: Willemse (3). Penalty: SP Marais.
Bulls – Tries: Lood de Jager‚ Jason Jenkins. Conversions: Handre Pollard (2). Penalty: Pollard.