Seabelo Senatla scored a 79th-minute try as the Stormers secured a 41-33 win over the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The Stormers will head into the playoffs on the back of three successive wins following the June international break, but they will do so with their confidence hardly at an all-time high.
Again, the Stormers were guilty of some poor defence, while they were regularly punished for their persistence with a fast and loose style of play.
Ultimately, it required a late breakaway try to Senatla to seal the result, but the Stormers will know that a vastly improved performance will be required if they hope to compete against the Chiefs in the quarter-finals next weekend.
In the opening quarter, coach Robbie Fleck would have been a worried man, with the Bulls exposing the Stormers’ defence with ease, while establishing complete ascendancy at scrum time.
During those first 20 minutes, the Bulls scored twice through Jason Jenkins and Duncan Mathews, although the Stormers did respond with two quick-fire tries of their own as Cheslin Kolbe and Sikhumbuzo Notshe dotted down.
Kolbe’s try was a particularly special one as he danced past five defenders to score under the posts, while the diminutive winger also completed a try-saving tackle on Warrick Gelant just after the quarter-hour mark as he made a considerable individual impact on proceedings early on.
Yet the Bulls continued to expose some of the Stormers’ dodgy defence through their ambitious offloading game, with a lovely backhand pass from Duncan Mathews next putting Jesse Kriel away to score in the 29th minute.
Despite the helter-skelter nature of the opening stanza, the Stormers finally settled down and dominated the latter stages of the half, with Damian Willemse slotting a penalty before Dillyn Leyds showed good pace to dart over for a try that sent the visitors into a one-point lead at the break.
On either side of half-time, the Stormers turned down kickable penalties on three occasions to kick to the corner or take a quick tap instead, with this maverick approach not once reaping reward by way of points.
The Stormers were let off the hook, though, when Tian Schoeman missed a 51st-minute penalty, while Bulls prop Conraad van Vuurren was shown a yellow card almost immediately after for a high tackle on Leyds.
In Van Vuuren’s absence, Siya Kolisi and Willemse went over to score as the Stormers stretched their lead to 34-21 just after the hour mark.
While the Stormers might have been expected to run away with it from there, the Bulls pounced on a couple of poor errors to run in tries to Piet van Zyl and Kriel that suddenly made it just a one-point ball-game heading into the final 10 minutes.
In the end, Senatla struck the decisive blow late in the game to finally seal the result for the Cape-based side.
Bulls – Tries: Jason Jenkins, Duncan Mathews, Jesse Kriel (2), Piet van Zyl. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (3), Tony Jantjies.
Stormers – Tries: Cheslin Kolbe, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Dillyn Leyds, Siya Kolisi, Damian Willemse, Seabelo Senatla. Conversions: Willemse (4). Penalty: Willemse.
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Duncan Mathews, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Jannes Kirsten, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Shaun Adendorff, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Conraad van Vuurren, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 John-Roy Jenkinson, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 Piet Van Zyl, 22 Tony Jantjies, 23 Burger Odendaal.
Stormers – 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 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 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Juarno Augustus, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Juan de Jongh, 23 Dan Kriel.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images