The DHL Stormers finished their 2013 Vodacom Super Rugby season on a high with a 30-13 win over the Bulls at a packed DHL Newlands on Saturday.
The result sees the Stormers finish the season in seventh place on the overall Super Rugby log – just a few points outside a top-six finish, whilst it also means that they have beaten all three Conference winners this year.
They beat the Chiefs of New Zealand, the Brumbies of Australia and the Bulls of South Africa at DHL Newlands, finishing 2013 with five wins in a row (nine overall) since returning from their tour of Australasia in late May.
The DHL Stormers scored three tries to one in their well-deserved victory tonight, departing winger Bryan Habana showing great pace and skill for his 19th try in Stormers colours after powerhouse lock Eben Etzebeth had opened the scoring just minutes before.
Etzebeth crashed over in the left-hand corner in the 10th minute of action after a neat one-two with hooker Scarra Ntubeni in the front of the Stormers’ line-out. Gary van Aswegen, starting at flyhalf this week, nailed the conversion from out wide to put his team up by 7-0.
There was, rightly, a loud cheer from the 45,000-strong crowd at DHL Newlands after Etzebeth’s score but there was a louder noise six minutes later when Habana cut in off his wing following a lovely pass from skipper Jean de Villiers. Habana found just enough space before accelerating and finishing with a trademark dive next to the uprights, Van Aswegen converting to make it 14-3 (after an earlier penalty by the Bulls’ Morné Steyn).
The Bulls hit back again in the 21st minute when fullback Zane Kirchner stretched over for their only try of the night – converted by Steyn – but Van Aswegen kept the scoreboard ticking over with three penalties (24th, 29th and 37th minutes) to put the Stormers ahead by 23-10 just before half-time.
The visitors received a welcome shot in the arm when De Villiers was sin-binned just before half-time for a late tackle, but they could add only three points (via Steyn) ahead of the break to make it 23-13 at half-time.
The score remained unchanged until the Stormers skipper returned from the sin bin and it was that man De Villiers who dived over from close-range in the 56th minute, next to a ruck, after a superb build-up from the hosts.
Almost every Stormers player handled the ball in the build-up to De Villiers’s try, his 27th score in 96 Super Rugby matches, as the team showed great patience and continuity when it mattered most.
Van Aswegen – who kicked six from six on the night – never looked like missing the conversion to make it 30-13 and although no more points were scored by either side in the final 24 minutes, it could not detract from the Stormers’ excellent victory as all-action flanker Deon Fourie walked off with yet another Vodacom Man of the Match Award.
For the DHL Stormers:
Tries: Etzebeth, Habana, De Villiers
Cons: Van Aswegen 3
Pens: Van Aswegen 3
For the Bulls:
Pens: Steyn 2
DHL Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Gerbrandt Grobler, 19 Don Armand, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Damian de Allende.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Dewald Potgieter (captain), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Morné Mellett, 19 Jacques du Plessis, 20 Jono Ross, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Jürgen Visser.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)