The Stormers stayed true to their brave attacking approach and beat the Chiefs 34-26 on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI at Newlands.
The Stormers went into this contest with the intention of fighting fire with fire. In the buildup, coach Robbie Fleck claimed that his team was fit and strong enough to outplay one of the best New Zealand franchises in a fast-paced game of rugby.
The gamble paid off. The Stormers maintained their effort to put four tries past the Chiefs – a side that had conceded only six in their previous five matches.
While the Stormers fired on attack, their discipline let them down – they conceded 10 points while flanker Cobus Wiese was in the sin bin in the first half – and their wayward kicking allowed one of the best counter-attacking units in the tournament a series of chances to hit back.
The Chiefs toyed with the Stormers in the first quarter. Their chip kicks and grubbers often found grass in the space behind the hosts’ defence. The visitors waited for the less adept Stormers’ kickers to mis-hit a return. It was then that they struck with brutal and spectacular efficiency.
Toni Pulu’s first score will be an early contender for try of the season. Damian McKenzie collected an aimless Stormers kick, and then set off on the counter-attack. The Chiefs countered at top speed, but sacrificed nothing in terms of timing. Support runners galore were on hand to accept offloads down the left-hand touchline, and when Pulu finished, the whole of Newlands voiced its appreciation.
McKenzie punished another poor kick by the Stormers later in the half. The Chiefs fullback breached the heart of the Stormers’ defence, and then threw a pinpoint pass for Pulu to finish. At 18-14, the Chiefs were threatening to take control.
The Stormers showed character to fight back and finish the half with a 24-18 lead. Flyhalf Robert du Preez's successful reach for the line brought a crowd of 34,700 at Newlands to its feet.
SP Marais slotted a penalty early in the second stanza to extend the hosts’ lead to nine points. The Chiefs attempted to remain in the contest through the boot of Aaron Cruden. The flyhalf kicked a penalty to bring the visitors back within a converted try of the hosts.
An intercept by Cheslin Kolbe cut open the Chiefs defence, and then Dillyn Leyds produced one of the most outstanding pieces of handling by a Stormers player in 2017.
The winger beat the cover defence to the bouncing ball, and then flung an outrageous offload to his left. Marais had followed in support, and was on hand to accept the pass. A successful conversion by Du Preez boosted the Stormers' lead up to 13 points.
The Chiefs hit back in the 58th minute through a James Lowe try. Cruden’s conversion attempt hit the upright, though, and this ensured that an eight-point gap remained with 21 minutes left to play.
The Chiefs grew more desperate as full-time approached. The Stormers’ physical effort never faltered, and the hosts showed terrific accuracy on defence during this period.
The final whistle marked the end of the Chiefs’ winning streak, and that of the New Zealand’s Super Rugby teams' unbeaten run in 2017.
The Stormers have made a statement with this performance and result, and are now one of only two teams to remain unbeaten (aside from the Crusaders) in this year’s tournament.
Stormers – Tries: Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Siya Kolisi, Robert du Preez, SP Marais. Conversions: Du Preez (4). Penalties: Marais (2).
Chiefs – Tries: Toni Pulu (2), James Lowe. Conversion: Aaron Cruden. Penalties: Cruden (3).
Stormers – 15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Siya Kolisi (c), 6 Cobus Wiese, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Dan Kriel.
Chiefs – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Stephen Donald, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 18 Sosefo Kautai, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Mitchell Brown, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Sam McNicol, 23 Shaun Stevenson.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images