The Vodacom Stormers clinched a home Vodacom Super 14 semifinal berth against the Waratahs with a convincing 38-10 victory over the Bulls at Newlands on Saturday.
They tackle the Waratahs in the second game (kick-off 19:10) next Saturday at Newlands. The halftime score was 28-3 in favour of the Stormers in front of 48 739 spectators.
It will be the first time since 1999 that the Stormers will be hosting a semifinal. The Stormers started in fourth position on the points’ table with 39 behind Bulls, Waratahs and Crusaders. They needed a victory to finish second and thus claim a home semi-final berth.
Defeat would have meant an arduous trip to Sydney for a semi-final clash with the dangerous Waratahs next weekend. They went about their business in a very professional manner and completely outplayed the Bulls, who were without several first-choice players.
The Stormers had a chance to get the first points on the scoreboard after Bulls lock Bakkies Botha was penalised for dangerously joining a ruck from the side, in the process injuring Stormers wing Gio Aplon. Flyhalf Peter Grant failed with the penalty kick though.
But just more than two minutes later the home supporters had reason to cheer as former Bulls wing Bryan Habana crossed the try-line. The Stormers applied big pressure with excellent interplay between forwards and backs before a lovely weighted long pass from captain Schalk Burger found an unmarked Habana. Grant beautifully converted to hand his side an early 7-0 lead. Bulls flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter answered with a penalty after a Stormers transgression at a ruck.
Grant extended the lead with a succesful penalty attempt in the 12th minute after offside play by the Bulls (10-3). He added 3 more points in the 15th.
Habana got his second try in the 23rd min. after another fierce onslaught on the Bulls try-line. Again it was a long pass from Burger to Jacques Fourie that enabled fullback Joe Pietersen to send Habana away. Grant failed with the conversion (18-3).
Lock Andries Bekker was next on the scoreboard when he crashed over from close range after a pretty determined run by Pietersen came to a halt close to the try-line. Grant converted to make the lead 25-3 after 29 minutes. The Bulls came close to scoring in the 32nd min. and scrumhalf Heini Adams touched down, but the TMO denied the visitors a try.
Grant slotted another penalty just before halftime (28-3). The Bulls suffered a setback when centre and former Stormers captain De Wet Barry was yellow-carded for illegal play in the 52nd min. Grant added 3 more.
The stadium erupted when Jacque Fourie strolled over for the fourth try that ensured the Stormers bonus point. Aplon’s made it possible with a good run before he succesfully chipped and chased to send the Bok midfielder away. Grant converted.
Referee Jonathan Kaplan showed Habana a yellow card in the 78th min. after repeated transgressions by his team. The Bulls used the opportunity to get their first and only try of the match by replacement scrumhalf Ruan Snyman. Francois Brummer converted to make the score 38-10.
Vodacom Stormers – Tries: Bryan Habana (2), Andries Bekker, Jacques Fourie; Conversions: Peter Grant (3);Penalties: Peter Grant (4).
Vodacom Bulls – Try: Ruan Snyman; Conversion: Francois Brummer; Penalty: Jacques-Louis Potgieter.