The DHL Stormers claimed a 41-33 victory against the Vodacom Bulls in their final match of the Vodacom Super Rugby regular season at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
It was the tenth victory of the season for Head Coach Robbie Fleck’s team and their second against the Vodacom Bulls, but they were made to work hard for it as they outscored their hosts by six tries to five in an entertaining spectacle of running rugby.
The DHL Stormers will face the Chiefs in their Vodacom Super Rugby quarterfinal at DHL Newlands next Saturday.
The first half was a breathless affair as the teams traded blows, each scoring three tries in an entertaining 40 minutes.
The home side struck first as lock Jason Jenkins forced his way over from close range, but it was not long before the DHL Stormers were back on level terms as Cheslin Kolbe showed incredibly quick feet to step past a number of Vodacom Bulls defenders and score under the uprights.
The DHL Stormers took the lead when a patient build-up in opposition territory with great touches from the likes of Jano Vermaak and Dillyn Leyds saw flank Sikhumbuzo Notshe go over for a try.
However, the Vodacom Bulls hit back with two further tries of their own as first wing Duncan Mathews and then outside centre Jesse Kriel scored to give them a 21-12 advantage.
To their credit the DHL Stormers did not allow their heads to drop and following a penalty from flyhalf Damian Willemse they took the lead back with a try from Leyds which was set up by a break from Seabelo Senatla and some impressive interplay between forwards and backs.
That gave the DHL Stormers a slender 21-22 lead at the half-time break, with everything to play for in the second half.
The Vodacom Bulls were reduced to 14 men at the start of the second half when prop Conraad van Vuuren was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Leyds.
The DHL Stormers took advantage immediately as they charged upfield, with captain Siya Kolisi buroowing his way over for their fourth try which stretched their lead out to 29-21.
They followed that up with another try from Willemse after another impressive break from Leyds to put the visitors firmly in the driving seat with 20 minutes left to play.
The Vodacom Bulls scored their first points of the second half with a try from replacement scrumhalf Piet van Zyl who broke from a ruck to score in the corner.
The home side were right back in it shortly afterwards when Kriel intercepted in midfield to race away and reduce the DHL Stormers lead to 34-33 with 10 minutes left.
That meant a tense ending to the game, but the DHL Stormers landed the final blow as Senatla crossed for their sixth try to seal the win.
For DHL Stormers:
Tries: Kolbe, Notshe, Leyds, Kolisi, Willemse, Senatla
Cons: Willemse 3, Kolbe
For Vodacom Bulls:
Tries: Jenkins, Mathews, Kriel 2, Van Zyl
Cons: Schoeman 3, Jantjies
DHL Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth (vice-captain), 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Juarno Augustus, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Juan de Jongh, 23 Dan Kriel.
Vodacom Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Duncan Mathews, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Jannes Kirsten, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Shaun Adendorff, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Conraad van Vuurren, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 John-Roy Jenkinson, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 Piet Van Zyl, 22 Tony Jantjies, 23 Burger Odendaal.