CAPE TOWN – If there was ever any doubt that South African rugby derbies are still big, you’d just have to have seen the Stormers versus Bulls game to be convinced otherwise.
This Super Rugby game was tight. It was hard. And up until halftime, you would have had to go out on an enormous limb if you were to predict the winner or the outcome.
But regardless of how hard that first half was, the real Stormers finally showed up after they have gone missing on a couple of occasions this season.
It’s been a tough season for the Stormers, who have been hustling to crack into the top eight after six away losses.
But on Saturday, they managed to keep their winning record at home alive. And it was a good all-round performance as well.
After two early tries by the hosts through flyhalf Damian Willemse and Springbok prop tighthead Wilco Louw, the Stormers led 12-0, before Bok lock Lood de Jager ran a good line and added his name to the score-sheet for the Bulls.
A penalty by Handré Pollard, after Stormers hooker Ramone Samuels was harshly yellow-carded for a late tackle on the Bulls flyhalf, took the visitors to within two points of the hosts on the 30-minute mark.
And an early second-half try by Jason Jenkins – after he managed to get through some sloppy Stormers defence – gave them the lead for the first time in the match.
That lead was short-lived, however, as Stormers centre Damian de Allende’s hands made sure of that.
The No 12 went for the blindside after a ruck in the opposition 22, and in one slick move, he dummied a high pass to fullback SP Marais on his outside, pulled it back (pulling in a defender and selling that dummy in superb style) before getting the ball to Marais to add the finishing touches to regain the lead.
And that’s how the score remained for the Bulls, that is.
And speaking of hands – Stormers lock Pieter-Steph du Toit added a top moment as well when he made a stunning offload with perfect timing in the second half to put Samuels away in the corner.
But that offload wasn’t the Springbok’s only worthy contribution to the Stormers’ win.
In a Man-of-the-Match performance, Du Toit was massive on defence, good with ball in hand and produced a strong outing at the lineout as he continued his solid 2018 season.
De Allende also again showed that his form is growing week by week, and it was another fine game by him in front of an impressive Newlands crowd of 30 083, while the Bulls’ De Jager was also one of the top performers.
It was a big match for another man, but this game was big for him even before kickoff.
The victory was skipper Siya Kolisi’s 100th appearance for the Stormers, and he couldn’t have asked for a better one, especially taking into account the troubles the Cape team have encountered this year.
It was also a special match for hooker Scarra Ntubeni, who earned his 50th Super Rugby cap.
Apart from the individual milestones and good performances, the Stormers, as a collective, also added a few other positives.
Their performance at the scrum was massive, they weren’t under pressure at the breakdowns – as they were when they met the Bulls at Loftus – and they performed for the whole game, not in patches, as we’ve seen too many times this season.
The victory was everything the Stormers needed as they head into their last home game before they head overseas to play the Sunwolves and the Jaguares.
When they host the Chiefs next week, they should have one goal – to play with the same kind of intensity they did yesterday.
And to stay at it for 80 minutes again.
Stormers 29 – Tries: Damian Willemse, Wilco Louw, SP Marais, Ramone Samuels Conversions: Willemse (3) Penalty: Marais (1).
Bulls 17 – Tries: Lood de Jager, Jason Jenkins, Conversions: Handré Pollard (2) Penalty: Pollard (1).