The Chiefs beat the Stormers 17-11 on Saturday to set up a semi-final showdown with the Crusaders, reports JON CARDINELLI at Newlands.
The Stormers were handed a lesson in playoff rugby on Saturday. The Chiefs won the territorial battle, made the most of their opportunities in front of goal, and ultimately came away with a well-deserved win.
The Stormers came away with nothing. The Newlands faithful will be all too familiar with this ending to the Super Rugby story.
The Stormers have now lost eight of their nine playoffs – six of those in Cape Town. To say they have problems with composure in the crunch matches is a gross understatement.
They were helped to a degree by an error-prone Chiefs side. Conditions were clear and dry at Newlands on Saturday. Those among the 27,500 crowd may have expected a repeat of the seven-try, 34-26 thriller between the two sides in round eight. As it was, the Chiefs made 17 handling errors in the first half alone.
The Stormers did well to stifle the Chiefs at the breakdown, though. Indeed, the one positive to come out of this match for the Cape side was the quality of their defence. The visitors had many opportunities to score, but were denied for as many as 76 minutes by the determined men in blue.
That said, the Chiefs enjoyed these opportunities thanks to the accuracy of their tactical kickers. The visitors did well to pin the hosts deep in their own territory, and apply the pressure. Damian McKenzie kicked three penalties to ensure that his side went to the break with a 9-3 lead.
The Stormers capitalised on a rare scoring chance after half-time. The ball was shifted to Siya Kolisi on the right wing, and the Stormers captain finished. SP Marais, however, failed to convert, and so the Chiefs maintained a slender one-point lead.
The hosts then committed the cardinal sin of conceding points immediately after scoring. An infringement allowed McKenzie another crack at the posts, and the Chiefs fullback made no mistake.
The Stormers were handed a series of golden opportunities in the final quarter. Referee Jaco Peyper showed Chiefs skipper Sam Cane a yellow card for what appeared to be an innocuous tackle on Dillyn Leyds in the 60th minute. Marais kicked the ensuing penalty to reduce the deficit to a point.
The hosts failed to make further inroads despite the one-man advantage, though. Upon Cane’s return, the Stormers had a further chance to kick at goal. Marais pushed the attempt wide and the Chiefs managed to exit.
The New Zealand side was not as generous as their South African counterparts. The Chiefs kicked well to steer the play deep into Stormers territory. And when the opportunity to strike arrived, they seized it wholeheartedly.
Flyhalf Aaron Cruden threw a flat pass to find Shaun Stevenson unmarked out wide. The replacement winger slid in for a try that propelled the visitors into a six-point lead. The Stormers were left needing a converted try for victory, with only four minutes remaining.
The Chiefs defence had the final say. Nobody took the initiative for the hosts in the dying seconds, and all the visitors had to do was hold their shape. Peyper blew the whistle for another Stormers scrum, but by then the final hooter had sounded and so brought the curtain down on yet another disappointing season for the Cape-based side.
Stormers – Try: Siya Kolisi. Penalties: SP Marais (2).
Chiefs – Try: Shaun Stevenson. Penalties: Damian McKenzie (4).
Stormers – 15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Seabelo Senatla, 23 Juan de Jongh.
Chiefs – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Solomon Alaimalo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Stephen Donald, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (co-c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Tim Nanai-Williams, 23 Shaun Stevenson.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images