Inspired Stormers knock Bulls off top spot
July 13, 2013
Bryan Habana showed what the Stormers will be missing next season
© Getty Images
The Bulls lost first place in the Super 15 table after a final-round 30-13 hammering by the Stormers on Saturday. The Cape Town side played inspirational rugby at Newlands to leave their supporters wondering how they could finish only seventh and miss the play-off series.
The Bulls had no answer to the brilliant attacking and defending of their long-time foes, and slipped to second on the final standings. A bonus-point victory for the Chiefs over the Blues in a New Zealand derby meant the Bulls needed to make it 10 wins in a row to remain on top.
But they were on the back foot from the kick-off and lock Eben Etzebeth powered over for a 10th-minute try and a lead the Stormers never lost.
The Bulls' happiest moment was when full-back Zane Kirchner dotted down and star fly-half Morne Steyn converted to leave the Bulls 14-10 adrift. However, recalled Stormers fly-half Gary van Aswegen then kicked three penalties to one by Steyn and the Cape Town outfit turned over 23-13 ahead.
Stormers skipper Jean de Villiers was sin binned just before half-time, only to make amends with a match-clinching try on 56 minutes. Van Aswegen converted to close the scoring and his 15-point haul, as well as an inventive showing as playmaker, earned him a standing ovation when he was benched.
Fittingly, Stormers left-wing Bryan Habana had the final say as he tapped a penalty into touch to end a typically bruising South African derby. A 2007 IRB Rugby World Cup winner and former Bulls player, Habana, 29, is leaving Cape Town for French Top 14 outfit Toulon. He scored the Stormers' other first-half try, cutting inside to take a de Villiers pass and dot down with a trademark spectacular dive.
Steyn, the leading Super 15 point-scorer this season with 230, had to settle for eight in Cape Town as he also landed two penalties. But his mid-second-half departure, along with scrum-half and fellow Springbok Jano Vermaak, indicated that the Bulls bosses knew this was not their day.
They have a bye next weekend before facing the higher ranked of the two play-off winners - possibly the Brumbies - in a home semi-final.
Title-holders the Chiefs also get a brief break before a potential semi-final showdown with compatriots and seven-time champions, the Crusaders.
The Stormers saved their best performance for their last game (video available only in Australia)
The latest Week in Pictures takes in all the action from the weekend when rugby united behind Samoa
The Wallabies showed flair in Dublin, but they still have a way to go if they are to do more than make up the numbers at the World Cup, writes Greg Growden
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton
Wales' lessons to learn in defeat by New Zealand are almost exactly the same as those from previous near-misses, writes Huw Richards