Duane Vermeulen led from the front as a young Stormers side beat the Vodacom Bulls 29-17 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Against every pre-match prediction, the Stormers dominated the first half. Rookie tighthead Vincent Koch was the star in a monumental scrum effort, while collectively the Stormers pack did their best to disrupt the Bulls lineout and boss the collisions. Vermeulen was colossal at the breakdown, while No 12 Damian de Allende was just as imposing at the gainline.
The Stormers were full value for their 17-5 half-time lead. Dillyn Leyds pounced in the ninth minute to snatch a try against the run of play. Vermeulen added another five-pointer in the 28th minute, and the accurate goal-kicking of Demetri Catrakilis ensured the visitors extended their lead.
The Bulls forwards were comprehensively outplayed, placing their halfback pairing under pressure, as both Piet van Zyl and Handré Pollard were rushed into making some bad decisions.
Pollard also disappointed with his goal-kicking in the first half. After achieving a 93% goal-kicking record in 2014, Pollard started the 2015 season with three straight misses.
The Springbok flyhalf was more accurate in the second stanza, converting all four attempts on goal. The Bulls managed to lift their intensity at the tackle point during the third quarter, and momentarily, it looked like they may complete a comeback.
The defining moment arrived when the Bulls were on attack deep in Stormers territory, and trailing by 20-14. The visitors maintained their defensive shape, and then Vermeulen swooped to make the big play. The Bok No 8 clamped his hands on the ball, and won the penalty for his team.
The momentum swung back in the visitors' favour thereafter. Kurt Coleman replaced Catrakilis late in the piece, and contributed a penalty and a drop goal to put the game beyond the Bulls' reach.
The result is massively unexpected considering the Stormers fielded several debutants and were without the likes of Eben Etzebeth and a few other key players. It's a result that will come as a shock given the Bulls enjoyed such a commanding record at Loftus Versfeld in 2014, while the Stormers were awful on the road.
That said, it's a win that was hard earned. The Stormers played with guts and intelligence, and deserved the 29-17 victory.
Bulls – Try: Deon Stegmann. Penalties: Handré Pollard (4).
Stormers – Tries: Dillyn Leyds, Duane Vermeulen. Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis (2). Penalties: Catrakilis (3), Kurt Coleman. Drop goal: Coleman.
Bulls – 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Piet Van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Jacques Du Plessis, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Subs: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Morné Mellet, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen/Neethling Fouche, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Pierre Spies, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 23 Jesse Kriel.
Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images