The Investec Stormers faded badly in the second half of their Super 12 match against the Blues at Newlands on Saturday and conceded a 24-0 lead to eventually go down 37-24.
The Stormers started off as if they had to catch a train and scored three tries in quick succession to enjoy a 24-0 lead after 21 minutes, but then inexplicably ran out of steam.
Mistakes crept into their game and their handling and tackling led them down against a Blues team who showed composure and grit in the face of adversity. The Kiwis fought back bravely and at halftime the game was evenly poised 24-22 in favour of the home team.
After halftime though, it was the Blues who asked most of the questions on the attack and the Stormers had to dig deep to keep the marauding Blues at bay. Midway through the second half the Stormers initiated some rearguard action of their own to keep the spectators glued to their seats.
That was, however, not enough and the Blues in the end were full value for the five points they left Newlands with after an entertaining game.
The Stormers suffered a double blow shortly before kick-off. Flyhalf Chris Rossouw (flu) and tighthead prop Faan Rauntenbach (calf injury) were forced to withdraw before the game.
That led to a reshuffle of the backline, with Breyton Paulse moving from right wing to fullback in place of Gaffie du Toit. Du Toit moved to flyhalf, with Gus Theron filling in at the the left wing and Tonderai Chavhanga shifting to the right.
Riaan Olckers were promoted from the substitutes’ bench to the starting lineup in place of Rautenbach. Eddie Andrews moved to tighthead prop though, with JD Moller coming in on the bench.
The Stormers nevertheless had a most impressive start to the game, posing all the questions for the first six minutes until Gaffie du Toit slotted a penalty kick to give the home side a 3-0 lead.
The Blues suffered a setback of their own when outside centre Ben Atiga left the field in the 9th minute to be replaced by Rua Tipuki.
The crowd was delighted when the Stormers got their first try in the 11th minute from a set scrum 22m from the Blues try-line. No 8 Joe van Niekerk picked up and went before Chavhanga cut inside.
He shook off the attention of flank Jerome Kaino and the Zimbabwean was strong enough to force his way over the try-line despite a desperate attempt of flyhalf Tasesa Lavea to stop him. Du Toit converted to make it 10-0.
The clearly fired-up Stormers got their second through De Villiers in the 16th after lock Andries Bekker hoofed a loose ball through. He won the ball back and from there it went down the Stormers backline.
Inside centre De Wet Barry straightened the line before beautifully offloading in the tackle to Jean de Villiers who dived over. Du Toit converted from far out and suddenly the Stormers enjoyed a healthy lead of 17-0.
In the 21st minute Captain Courageous, Barry, bulldozed his way through from a lineout, in the process knocking three would-be tacklers out of his way. Du Toit added the two to make it 24-0.
The Blues hit back with a try by Lavea after a blunder under the high ball by Chavhanga. Luke McAlister converted and slotted a penalty in the 26th minute to eat into the deficit (24-10).
The Blues continued their fight back attempt when they benefited from some poor defensive work by the home side and Tipuki finished off a good movement (24-15).
A groggy-looking De Villiers left the field at the same time for some treatment to a facial wound. Marius Joubert replaced him.
The Blues showed they would not lie down and scored a great try by captain Xavier Rush after taking a quick tap kick close to their try-line. A beautifully weighted chip kick by McAlister found wide open spaces and a flying Rush and there was no stopping the galloping No 8. McAlister added two and the game was evenly poised at 24-22.
When the teams returned for the second half, De Villiers was back.
More bad tackling by the Stormers led to a try for Joe Rokococo in the 44th minute and the Blues had the lead for the first time in the game at 27-24.
In the 60th minute Marius Joubert replaced Chavhanga in a tactical switch. Ross Skeate took over from Andries Bekker, who visited the blood bin, at lock.
Du Toit had a chance to draw the scores level in the 64th minute, but his penalty attempt failed.
Two minutes later it was heartache for the home team and their supporters when Lavea scored a simple try after the Blues won good ruck ball and outnumbered the defenders.
The Stormers suddenly had an awful lot to do if they wanted to win the game and coach Gert Smal sent on Neil de Kock, Chris Rossouw, Pieter Dixon and JD Moller.
Rokococo basically ended the game as a contest when he scored the easiest of tries in the 71st minute after the Blues poached another Stormers ruck ball.
Investec Stormers – Tries: Tonderai Chavhanga, Jean de Villiers, De Wet Barry;
Conversions: Gaffie du Toit (3);
Penalty: Gaffie du Toit.
Blues – Tries: Tasesa Lavea (2), Rua Tipuki, Xavier Rush, Joe Rokococo (2);
Conversions: Luke McAlister (2);
Penalties: Luke McAlister (1).