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Bulls came out firing, but nothing was going to stop hungry Stormers from winning URC final

Stormers captain Steven Kitshoff goes on the run and is tackled by Ruan Nortje of the Blue Bulls during the United Rugby Championship final at Cape Town Stadium in Cape Town on Saturday. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Stormers captain Steven Kitshoff goes on the run and is tackled by Ruan Nortje of the Blue Bulls during the United Rugby Championship final at Cape Town Stadium in Cape Town on Saturday. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 18, 2022

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Cape Town — The curse has been lifted! After years of coming short in international competitions, the Stormers are finally the champions. And it was meant to be…

The Bulls were worthy challengers, but in the end, the Cape side’s grit and hunger pulled them through to emerge 18-13 winners at a pumping Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night.

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Nothing was going to stop John Dobson’s men from creating history. The pain of the 2010 Super Rugby final defeat — and the countless semi-final and quarter-final losses over the years — was too much to handle for the rugby-crazy Western Cape.

They needed something to celebrate after all these years, and Steven Kitshoff’s boys in blue delivered.

The Bulls could easily have wrapped up the title in the first half. They had numerous attacking opportunities inside the Stormers half, and even got into the 22 regularly. But time and again — apart from Harold Vorster’s early try — they were stopped in their tracks.

It was either yet another crucial intervention by Deon Fourie at the breakdown — and he was given a healthy leeway by referee Andrew Brace in that regard — or it was the scramble defence that held out the likes of Madosh Tambwe, Canan Moodie and the never-say-die Kurt-Lee Arendse.

The Stormers pack couldn’t get stuck into their opponents, with Gerhard Steenekamp, Johan Grobbelaar, Ruan Nortje and Arno Botha dominant in the collisions.

But all the Bulls had to show for it were seven points at halftime, and should’ve looked for a few drop goals to extend their lead.

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It was a miracle that the Stormers were just 7-3 behind at the break, and that would’ve given them real hope that they could pull off a victory if they got their game going.

It was no surprise that the Bulls couldn’t quite match the intensity of the first half in the second 40 minutes, as their forwards couldn’t be expected to keep knocking over the Stormers defenders.

Star No 8 Evan Roos’ try in the fifth minute of the second half made it 10-10, and from there, the Stormers had the momentum to carry them through — along with a boisterous 31 000-strong crowd.

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Perhaps coach Jake White could’ve brought on his replacements such as Bismarck du Plessis, Simphiwe Matanzima and Janko Swanepoel a bit earlier in the second half, but a debatable yellow card to centre Cornal Hendricks in the 56th minute — for a high tackle on Ruhan Nel — further took the sting out of the Bulls’ effort.

The Stormers pounced immediately on the one-man advantage as hooker Andre-Hugo Venter dotted down from a driving maul, and at 15-10, it was a difficult road back for the Bulls in a pressure-cooker atmosphere.

Chris Smith’s penalty made it 15-13 with 15 minutes to go, but the Bulls just weren’t able to land a late knockout blow as the Stormers just seemed to play with an extra arm and leg.

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They displayed greater energy in the final quarter, which is where the Bulls’ trip from Dublin after beating Leinster last week may have caught up with them.

Still, they never stopped trying, and only a late Manie Libbok drop goal ended their challenge.

For once, it was the Stormers who kept their cool under enormous pressure, and they were deservedly rewarded with the shiny new URC trophy.

Expect the party to continue long into next week in Cape Town!

Points-Scorers

Stormers 18 – Tries: Evan Roos, Andre-Hugo Venter. Conversion: Manie Libbok (1). Penalty: Libbok (1). Drop goal: Libbok (1).

Bulls 13 – Try: Harold Vorster. Conversion: Chris Smith (1). Penalties: Smith (2).

@ashfakmohamed

IOL Sport

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