Many thanks to the Bulls who picked a weakened team for the last round-robin game of the Super 14 season – this decision gave the Stormers a 38-10 (bonus point) victory and South Africa two home semi-finals!
[Report from Shaun Reznik /Rugby15]
With hindsight it is easy to believe that the Stormers were always going to win as comfortably as they did but the pre-game talk amongst Stormers fans was of the unpredictability, fight and nothing-to-lose attitude that this Blue Bulls team were expected to bring to the local derby.
The Blue Bulls team that took to the field was a hybrid squad of regular Blue Bulls bench warmers and the Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup winning team. It is important to note that the squad still had four Springboks (De Wet Barry, Jaco van der Westhuyzen, Bakkies Botha and Pedrie Wannenburg), two touring Boks (Heini Adams and Bandise Maku) and several other South Africa Under-19 and 21 representatives in the team. However, when the tickets for the game were sold-out a few weeks ago, none of the 48, 739 spectators that bought tickets expected to see the match that the game turned into.
That being said no rugby lover can not admire Bryan Habana and Jacque Fourie finish off good team tries and Bakkies Botha’s physicality in the rucks. The game also became an investigation into the ‘second best’ at the Bulls and one must wonder how this team (with more than one week of training) would match up against the ‘mighty’ Lions. While all South Africans must be proud of hosting both semis this weekend; the Lions team is an embarrassment and if results don’t’ improve in the Currie Cup, surely Dick Muir must fall on his sword.
It is hard to take too much from the game and it doesn’t bare much insight into either team’s prospects in the semi final. 80% of the Bulls’ squad will change for the semi-final this weekend and the Stormers seemed to take their feet off the accelerator after half-time. The Stormers arrived at the game determined to win and once they built a comfortable lead they eased off and seemed to be concentrating more on avoiding Bakkies Botha and the Bulls tight five – who seemed to be on a mission to increase the size of Allister Coetzee’s injury list.
Some are concerned that the Stormers didn’t win by more and others may be wondering if the Stormers have the killer-instinct needed to play knock-out rugby and win a semi-final and final. However, the Stormers go into the semi-finals having beaten all three of the other semi-finalists (the Waratahs and the Crusaders quite comfortably), two in form goal kickers, the best defence (171 points and 17 tries in 13 games) and points difference (194) in the tournament and several Springboks playing some of the best rugby of their career. Any neutral bystander must feel that the Stormers could win their first Super Rugby trophy ever. Ke Nako!