The DHL Stormers fought hard at Loftus Versfeld, but went down 33-23 against the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday.
Having been reduced to 14 men for 20 minutes of the match due to two yellow cards, the DHL Stormers were up against it in Pretoria, but still showed plenty of character under pressure.
The hosts made a determined start to the game and found reward with two tries from hooker Adriaan Strauss, which both came from driving mauls.
The DHL Stormers got on the scoreboard with a penalty from Damian Willemse, but a yellow card shown to Damian de Allende just before Strauss’ second try for repeated infringements had the visitors under more pressure.
The Vodacom Bulls managed a third try in the first half, with wing Johnny Kotze dotting down after Willemse had kicked a second penalty, but the DHL Stormers fought back valiantly to bring themselves right back into the game at half time.
First it was the forwards who took control with a powerful maul of their own, before a series of phases saw lock Jan de Klerk get over for a try.
They struck again on the stroke of half-time when replacement flank Kobus van Dyk made a break and found Damian de Allende, who chipped ahead and collected to score under the poles.
Those two late tries meant there was just one point in it at half-time, with the Vodacom Bulls holding a slender 19-18 advantage at the break.
The DHL Stormers were down to 14 men once again at the start of the second half when Pieter-Steph du Toit was shown a yellow card for an infringement at a maul.
Strauss got over for his third try soon afterwards which took the Vodacom Bulls lead out to eight points.
The DHL Stormers showed good composure under pressure and their patience was rewarded when captain Siya Kolisi scored in the corner.
The home side hit back soon afterwards with a try from centre Jesse Kriel which was awarded by the TMO, which sealed victory for the home side.
For DHL Stormers:
Tries: De Klerk, De Allende, Kolisi
Pens: Willemse 2
For Vodacom Bulls:
Tries: Strauss 3, Kotze, Kriel
Cons: Pollard 3
DHL Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian De Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Justin Phillips, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Kobus van Dyk, 21 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 22 Jano Vermaak, 23 Craig Barry.
Vodacom Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Johnny Kötze, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Divan Rossouw, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Jason Jenkins, 4 Hendré Stassen, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Frans van Wyk, 18 Lizo Gqoboka, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Duncan Matthews.