Stormers keep their Super Rugby playoff hopes alive
Cape Town boys put in one of their best performances of the season
The Stormers can dare to dream of a Super Rugby playoff after an inspired 34-22 win over the Highlanders at Newlands yesterday kept their post-season ambitions alive.
Despite scoring four tries, the Stormers were unable to secure a bonus point because they allowed the Highlanders in for three second- half tries.
Winning, though, was the Stormers' primary objective and they achieved that goal comfortably with one of their best displays of the season.
Several key players rose to the occasion, none more so than centre Damian de Allende, who seemed to be involved in everything good the Stormers did. But the win also appeared to come at a cost as Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi cried off with injury.
The Stormers produced a quality opening half and deservedly went into the break 14 points up, though skipper Kolisi hobbled off shortly before half-time. The Bok captain has been in good form in recent weeks and he played an influential role before departing.
It was his try six minutes before the break that really stamped the Stormers' authority on the scoreboard after dominating the half.
The try was almost a carbon copy of the one Kolisi scored against the Crusaders last week. He ran at full pace onto a flat pass, which he took slightly behind him, before rounding the last defender to score.
Considering that winning the conference is now out of the Stormers' control, they played with freedom.
They attacked from everywhere but never sacrificed their defensive shape and desire to work off the ball because of it.
Fullback Damian Willemse, De Allende and wing Seabelo Senatla had superb matches, but they were not alone.
Scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies's ascent continued against one of his heroes, Aaron Smith. The great All Black hopefully gave Jantjies a pat and a friendly word after the contest because he must have been impressed with what he saw up close.
Jantjies was a bundle of buzzing energy and when he wasn't clearing rucks with speed and accuracy, he sniped and attacked cracks in the Highlanders defence. He scored a well-taken try when running a smart angle after Senatla broke the line to set the Stormers on their way.
The Highlanders were out of sync in the first half and despite fashioning one or two chances for the dangerous Waisake Naholo, it required some brave head-on tackles by Willemse and Dillyn Leyds.
They enjoyed their best period of the match in the 15 minutes after the break when they secured almost all the possession.
Smith pulled the strings beautifully in that period and eventually the Highlanders created enough pressure for centre Sio Tomkinson to score. But the home side responded well with the visitors suddenly back in a contest in which they had barely had a foothold.
From just inside the Highlanders' half, Jantjies put Leyds into space and the slippery wing broke the first tackle and was away. He fed hard-working lock Cobus Wiese, who galloped over for the Stormers' third try, a step closer to the bonus point.
That hope was diminished 13 minutes from time when Naholo finished off a move to keep the Highlanders' faint hopes alive.
Stormers - Tries: Herschel Jantjies, Siya Kolisi, Cobus Wiese, Jean-Luc du Plessis; Conversions: Josh Stander (3), Du Plessis; Penalties: Stander, Du Plessis
Highlanders: Tries: Sio Tomkinson, Waisake Naholo, Siate Tokolahi; Conversions: Marty Banks, Dan Hollinshead. Penalty: Banks