The Chiefs thrashed the Stormers 60-21 in Saturday's quarter-final at Newlands, reports JON CARDINELLI.
The Chiefs will now travel to Wellington to play the Hurricanes in the first semi-final next weekend, with the Lions hosting the Highlanders in the second.
For the Stormers, it was a case of another playoff, another humiliating defeat. They came into this quarter-final contest with the wrong mindset as well as a flawed approach, and were put to the sword by a Chiefs team that was in a particularly unforgiving mood.
The result marks the Stormers’ seventh loss in eight playoff appearances. Unbelievably, they’ve now lost five out of six knockout games played at Newlands.
A mere 29,000 fans pitched for this, the final home game of the Stormers’ Super Rugby campaign. Perhaps the Newlands faithful sensed that another playoff disappointment was in the offing. Those who attended the match spent the majority of the contest voicing their anguish as the Stormers missed tackles and dropped passes with embarrassing regularity.
The hosts failed to apply sufficient pressure at the defensive breakdowns. They afforded the Chiefs midfielders and outside backs space to pass and run. It was a recipe for disaster.
The Stormers scored the first try of the game through Vincent Koch. It didn’t take the Chiefs long to respond, though. The visitors regained the lead after winger Sam McNichol swerved past a flat-footed Jaco Taute, and Damian McKenzie kicked the conversion.
It was a sign of painful things to come as far as the home side was concerned. The Chiefs continued to play a smart territorial game. They absorbed the pressure applied by an admittedly limp and one-dimensional Stormers attack. They were quick to pounce on the hosts’ misdirected tactical probes.
The Chiefs enjoyed plenty of success down the left-hand side of the field. The Stormers defence was breached in the 17th minute, and scrumhalf Brad Weber stepped inside Stormers flyhalf Robert du Preez to complete a score that helped the visitors shoot 10 points clear.
There was both horror and comedy on display in the lead-up to the Chiefs’ third try. Aaron Cruden charged down an attempted clearance by Taute, and the ball bounced free inside the in-goal area. Huw Jones got back, but failed to control the loose ball. Chiefs No 8 Tom Sanders didn’t make the same mistake, and another great touchline conversion by McKenzie stretched the visitors' lead to 24-7.
The Stormers’ left-hand flank was exposed again when James Lowe flew down the touchline and into space. The winger produced a well-weighted grubber, and beat Kobus van Wyk to the bouncing ball.
The Stormers scored their second try, again through Koch, on the stroke of half-time. The Chiefs, however, went to the break with a considerable 34-14 lead.
McKenzie scored a try of his own in the 46th minute to stretch the Chiefs’ lead to 25 points. The result was in the bag for the Hamilton-based side. At that point, the Stormers were scrapping to avoid conceding 50 points.
The match highlighted the gap between the South African and New Zealand franchises. The Chiefs had been competing at a high level during the conference stage, playing against fellow Kiwi opponents and the best South African sides (the Lions and Sharks).
The Stormers, meanwhile, were pitted against the weaker Australian sides, the abjectly poor Bulls and Cheetahs sides, and most recently, a Kings team that resembled a local club outfit.
The Stormers had multiple chances to score in the second stanza. For all of their possession and territory during that period, they crossed the Chiefs' tryline on just one occasion.
It was the visitors who finished with an almighty flourish, though. Hika Elliot scored from close range in the 75th minute, and Tevita Koloamatangi breached the defence in the 79th to take the Chiefs past 50 points. Right at the death, Tawera Kerr-Barlow showed his strength and pace to score. McKenzie added the extras to take his personal tally to 25 points.
While the Stormers were poor, the Chiefs produced a great first-half performance on attack and a determined second-half showing on defence. They will head into the semi-finals with form and confidence.
Stormers – Tries: Vincent Koch (2), Nizaam Carr. Conversions: Robert du Preez (2), Brandon Thomson.
Chiefs – Tries: Sam McNicol, Brad Weber, Tom Sanders, James Lowe, Damian McKenzie, Hika Elliot, Tevita Koloamatangi, Tawera Kerr-Barlow. Conversions: McKenzie (7). Penalties: McKenzie (2).
Stormers – 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Schalk Burger (c), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Frans Malherbe (c), 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Nizaam Carr, 22 Louis Schreuder, 23 Brandon Thomson.
Chiefs – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sam McNicol, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Stephen Donald, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Brad Weber, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Taleni Seu, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 18 Mitchell Graham, 19 Tevita Koloamatangi, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Toni Pulu, 23 Shaun Stevenson.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images