The DHL Stormers suffered a 17-25 defeat to the Bulls in their opening clash of the 2013 Vodacom Super Rugby tournament at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Friday.
The Stormers trailed by 0-9 at half-time, having missed a few kicks at goal themselves in the first half, but launched a great comeback early in the second half to trail the Bulls by 10-12 in front of a 44,272-strong crowd at Loftus.
A well-taken try by captain Jean de Villiers, in the 50th minute – followed by a Joe Pietersen conversion, narrowed the gap to just two points after 51 minutes but two Morné Steyn penalties put the home side ahead by more than one score at 18-10 after 61 minutes.
The Stormers bravely continued to chase the game as the fixture neared the 70-minute mark and were unlucky to concede a try when hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle benefitted from a ricocheted kick-ahead to dot down under the uprights for the Bulls.
Steyn converted to hand the Bulls a handy 25-10 lead inside the final ten minutes but the visitors kept trying for those three scores, or, at very least, two scores for a losing bonus point.
The one score came, in the 77th minute, when giant lock Andries Bekker crashed through the Bulls defence and Pietersen, again, added the extras.
At 17-25 the Stormers needed at least a penalty or a drop-goal for the losing bonus point but they were unable to work the ball out of their half after a deep restart by the Bulls.
DHL Stormers skipper Jean de Villiers admitted afterwards: “We were beaten by a better team on the day – it’s a big wake-up call for us. We made too many mistakes and gave away too many kickable penalties – you can’t afford to do that with a sharp-shooter like Morné Steyn in the opposition ranks.
“It’s a team sport,” added De Villiers, when asked about his team’s missed kicks at goal, “we all let the team down tonight and we need to take a good, hard look at ourselves before next week.”
It’s early days still in the 2013 Super Rugby tournament, and the Stormers – the 2011 and 2012 SA Conference winners – will next travel to Durban to take on the Sharks on Saturday, March 2 (kick-off 19h10).
For the Vodacom Bulls:
Pens: Steyn 6
For the DHL Stormers:
Tries: De Villiers, Bekker
Cons: Pietersen 2
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandrè Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morné Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Francois Venter.
Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Don Armand, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Gerhard van den Heever, 22 Joe Pietersen.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)