A Ruhan Nel second-half double set up a surprise 41-24 victory for the Stormers over the Rebels at AAMI Park on Friday.
It was the first Stormers’ first win on foreign soil in 12 attempts, while the Rebels were also the Australian conference leaders heading into this clash.
The visitors ran in four tries in the second period, to go with Dillyn Leyds’ early score in the first half.
The performance was even more impressive considering the Stormers were without a host of regulars, including senior Springboks such as captain Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit.
Leyds opened the scoring after just three minutes when the flying winger latched on to a loose clearance kick from the Rebels, and scythed through the home team’s defence to provide just the boost a young Stormers team were searching for.
Jean-Luc du Plessis extended the Stormers’ lead to 10 points with a penalty after a quarter of the match had been completed, but were forced to absorb a period of intense pressure for the remainder of the first half.
The Rebels went hard through a wave of attacks, only to be met by a committed Stormers defence, where a host of young players put their bodies on the line.
All this hard work was thrown away – literally – early in the second half when flyhalf Du Plessis wayward pass floated straight into the hands of Rebels fullback Reece Hodge.
With the scores deadlocked at 10-10, the match could have gone like all the Stormers previous matches on tour, but the rub of the green seemed to finally be on the side of Robbie Fleck’s men.
Assistant coach Paul Feeney had said midweek that the bounce of the ball hadn’t favoured the Stormers thus far this season. This all changed in the Victorian capital, with the Cape side preying on any mistake the Rebels made on the night.
The backline were certainly alert to the opportunities too, with fullback Damian Willemse enjoying another good night in the No 15 jumper, putting away second-half substitute Juarno Augustus for an important score to maintain the seven-point lead.