The Stormers beat the Bulls 29-17 at Newlands on Saturday to claim their fifth successive win at home. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Bulls’ long Super Rugby drought in Cape Town continues. The result on Saturday marked the Pretoria-based side’s seventh-straight loss at Newlands. In the context of the current season, the win allowed the Stormers to overtake their arch-rivals in the South African conference standings.
This north-south derby was not want for niggle and physicality. The Stormers had the better of the physical battle in the early stages, and made a point of targeting Bulls flyhalf Handré Pollard with several ferocious hits.
The Stormers set piece fired to lay the platform for two early tries. A tighthead on the Bulls’ feed culminated in a try for Damian Willemse. A successful maul paved the way for the Stormers’ second score, with Wilco Louw the man credited with the final touchdown.
That irresistible forward display propelled the Stormers into a 12-0 lead after just 10 minutes. They may have increased that advantage if not for a missed penalty attempt by Willemse, and then a knock on by Pieter-Steph du Toit right on the Bulls’ tryline.
The Bulls battled to break down the Stormers defence. Pollard was hammered back time and again, and the Bulls backs often collected a pass well behind the gain line.
When the Bulls did get it right, however, they were a sight to behold. Seconds after being crunched in a tackle, Pollard was back on his feet and putting teammate Lood de Jager through a hole. The execution of that move highlighted the threat of the John Mitchell-coached team.
Another lapse allowed the Bulls to get within a couple of points of the hosts. Ramone Samuels hit Pollard late in the 33rd minute, and was shown a yellow card. Pollard ignored the swirling wind as well as a chorus of boos to slot a kick that saw the Bulls trailing just 12-10 at half-time.
Those were the only points the Bulls scored while Samuels was in the bin, though. The Stormers defence held its shape, that was until Jason Jenkins smashed his way through the midfield and scored under the posts.
The visitors relinquished the lead almost immediately. SP Marais’ try in the right-hand corner was converted by Willemse. Marais then stepped up to nail a long-range penalty in the 53rd minute and take his side out to a 22-17 lead.
The big moment arrived shortly after the hour-mark. The Stormers looked to have botched a try-scoring opportunity, with Damian de Allende and Du Toit attempting to switch with the tryline at their mercy. Fortunately for the hosts, Samuels took a more direct route thereafter, planting the ball on the chalk and boosting his team into a significant lead.
It was a lead the Stormers never relinquished. The Cape side hung on to claim an important win, and ensure that their captain Siya Kolisi – who played in his 100th Super Rugby game – remembered the occasion for all the right reasons.
Stormers – Tries: Damian Willemse, Wilco Louw, SP Marais, Ramone Samuels. Conversions: Willemse (3). Penalty: SP Marais.
Bulls – Tries: Lood de Jager, Jason Jenkins. Conversions: Handré Pollard (2). Penalty: Pollard.
Stormers – 15 SP Marais 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Seabelo Senatla.
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (c), 11 Divan Rossouw, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 André Warner, 8 Thembelani Bholi, 7 Jason Jenkins, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Conrad van Vuuren, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Nqobisiwe Mxoli, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Nic de Jager, 20 Roelof Smit, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Manie Libbok, 22 Travis Ismaiel.