Inspired Stormers knock Bulls off top spot
July 13, 2013
Bryan Habana showed what the Stormers will be missing next season
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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)