Vodacom Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe promised to do the South African sides still in contention for a Vodacom Super 14 semifinal berth a favour by beating the Blues.
On Saturday his side did just that at Newlands by trouncing the New Zealand side 33-20 in an exciting game after leading 20-13 at halftime. The Blues now have a mountain to climb if they still want to clinch as semifinal spot.
This was a completely different Stormers side to the one that lost so heavily to the Bulls last weekend. They played purposefully and with a lot of passion.
The forwards stood up to a Blues pack comprising All Blacks such as Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Ali Williams and Troy Flavell.
The backs took their chances well and showed composure on the attack. They also tackled bravely, with De Wet Barry an immense presence in midfield.
The Stormers showed character by shrugging off a disastrous start to the game when poor defence saw them concede the first try as early as the third minute.
Blues centre Isaia Toeava used brute strength to get away from scrumhalf JP Joubert after some good ball distribution from his team-mates and he ran through to score close to the poles.
Flyhalf David Holwell had no problem adding two points with the conversion to hand the New Zealand team the early ascendancy. Holwell added three more points via a penalty in the 13th minute after Stormers prop Brok Harris was penalized for collapsing a set scrum.
The Stormers hit back in the 16th minute with a try by fullback Conrad Jantjes. The try came about after flank Schalk Burger forced a ruck, Barry hit the half gap at pace before offloading to Jean de Villiers and the centre beautifully got the ball away to Peter Grant.
The flyhalf almost scampered through, but the ball was recycled and Joubert and Russell handled before Jantjes cruised over with not a defender in sight. Grant converted (10-7).
There was drama a few minutes later when Brent Russell kicked the ball forward and Blues wing Joe Rokocoko seemed to have missed the ball when attempting to dot down. Stormers lock Gerrie Britz claimed the try, but the Television Match Official was called in and he ruled in favour of the Blues.
The Blues transgressed at the kick in from the 22m line and Grant had a chance to draw the scores level, which he took with glee (10-10).
The home crowd went wild when Luke Watson ran all of 40 metres after Barry’s tackle on David Gibson dislodged the ball and lock Ross Skeate was at hand to win it and send his skipper away. Grant converted to hand his side the lead after 24 minutes (17-10).
The Blues suffered a setback when captain Troy Flavell received a yellow card in the 29th minute for a second consecutive lineout transgression. Grant stretched the lead to 20-10 with a well-taken penalty attempt.
The Stormers had a chance to stretch their lead even further in the 35th minute, but lost a lineout on their own throw after opting to go for position instead of points from a penalty.
Holwell succeeded with a penalty in the 38th minute to make the halftime score 20-13 in favour of the home side.
The Stormers tried to assert their authority early on in the second half when they again opted to kick for possession in the 44th minute.
From the lineouts the pack tried to rumble the ball over and when it went wide Grant attacked on his own. He was tackled tantalizingly short of the line, but De Villiers was at hand to dot down.
Again the call was left to the TMO, who said no try. Referee Matt Goddard then awarded the home team a penalty and Grant added three more points to make the score 23-13.
The crowd went delirious when De Villiers intercepted on his own 22m-line in the 50th minute to out sprint Rokocoko and dive over under the poles. Grant converted and suddenly the heartache of Loftus last weekend seemed just a distant memory.
The Blues showed some fighting spirit when their forwards fought their way over the try-line in the 62nd minute. Loosehead prop Woodcock was the try-scorer and replacement flyhalf Isa Nacewa converted to make the score 33-20.
The Stormers had to pull out all the stops to keep a rampant Blues side away from their try-line in the last 15 minutes, when the visitors seemed to have found their second wind and went all out for the win.
On three occasions they had a chance to score points through penalties at goal, but opted for the five points.
In the 70th minute they went over the try-line and the TMO was brought into play, but his ruling this time favoured the Stormers.
The last few minutes were action-packed with the Blues trying their utmost to erase the deficit and the Stormers defending like Trojans. In the end the home side deserved their win.
Blues – Tries: Isaia Toava, Tony Woodcock; Conversions: David Holwell (1), Isa Nacewa (1); Penalties: David Holwell (2).
Vodacom Stormers – Tries: Conrad Jantjes, Luke Watson, Jean de Villiers; Conversions: Peter Grant (3); Penalties: Peter Grant (4).