Stormers win Loftus thriller
For many this was rugby should be – the game for the fun of it. There was no future advantage or disadvantage for winning or losing the game. It was not a prelude to anything else; it was the real show. The reality was the present and a chance to enjoy all that the game has to offer.
That is what made that end outburst of anger such a pity. It was right out of sync with the rest of the game, a statement that my damaged ego is more important than the match or the game. The match and the game are really about the great Me.
But really the bad taste of the end should not spoil the delights of the other 80 minutes of rugby, chances taken, successes enjoyed, sparkling skill, creativity, making the best of what rugby has to offer. There were flaws, for it was a human activity, but they sometimes became chances for others to shine.
Look at the stands and there was friendliness and enjoyment and even fairness of appreciation – a respectful crowd having fun. It mirrored the activity and spirit on the field.
Eleven tries were scored – eleven sparklers in the firmament of the game.
Getting possession was a genuine contest and not easily allowed. Playing with possession was exciting – sometimes physical, sometimes breathtaking.
The Bulls were on the attack and the Stormers tried running out of their 22 till, stopped, they passed the ball back to their teenage flyhalf, Damian Williemse, who kicked a huge kick which Duncan Matthews, the young Bulls left wing, grabbed about five metres from his goal-line. He ran back at the Stormers, beating a Springbok and then in the tackle popping the ball up to young lock RG Snyman who charged but was brought down by Cheslin Kolbe. Snyman gave to red-haired flank Jannes Kirsten who passed to veteran hooker Adriaan Strauss, who was tackled. Back the ball came to Rudy Paige who gave to fullback Warrick Gallant who timed a perfect pass to Jan Serfontein who charged for the line, pulled down just short by Sevens hero, Seabelo Senatla. Young lock Jason Jenkins got the ball and forced his way over for the try. It was a try for all shapes and sizes, like the game itself.
The Bulls led 7-0 after 8 minutes. But they knocked on from the kick-off and, on advantage, Cheslin Kolbe, the artful dodger of South African rugby beat six opponents and an ankletap on his way to scoring under the posts as Jan Serfontein got hold of him. 7-7 after 9 minutes.
Jano Vermaak, the veteran scrumhalf had a brilliant game, brilliant enough to suggest that he, at the age of 32, is not only playing the best rugby he has ever played but may also be the best scrumhalf in South Africa. He had a brilliant break on the left. Damian de Allende was close and suddenly flank Sikhumbuzo Notshe was free on the right and scored. The Stormers led 12-7 after 15 minutes.
Jesse Kriel cut the world apart on a long run and sent Matthews racing over for a try which restored the Bulls' lead at 14-12 after 19 minutes.
They nearly went further ahead when Gallant had a long run down the left but Kolbe hauled him down just short of the line. The Bulls had a line-out on their left. Shaun Adendorff fed Matthews coming in off his wing. He cut through and gave an underarm flick to Jesse Kriel who scored, untouched, under the posts. 21-12 after 32 minutes.
It was not a match of many penalties. In fact only one penalty goal was scored – by Williemse to bring the Stormers closer at 21-15 after 32 minutes. But two minutes later Senatla made some space for himself and, to great excitement, he went on a long run down the midfield. He lacked support and Matthew latched onto his attempted pass and sought to counter but lost the ball and the Stormers went left where Pieter-Steph du Toit gave a little pass to Dyllin Leyds who sped over the 22 for a try at the posts. The Stormers now led 22-21.
Just before half-time the Stormers had two five-mere line-outs without scoring.
The Stormers attacked first in the second half and had two five-mere scrums but again failed to score.
Bulls prop Conrad van Vuuren was sent to the sin bin for the third high tackle by his side. In his absence the Stormers got the shove on in a scrum and Nizaam Carr broke. Senatla and De Allende kept the attack going and in a heap Siya Kolisi scored. 29-21 after 54 minutes.
Piet van Zyl, substituting for Paige, kicked a long way downfield – and the Stormers scored! Senatla gave to Leyds whose acceleration and vision cut the Bulls open. Leyds gave to Williemse on the 22 and he raced in for the try. 34-21 after 54 minutes.
The Bulls then built 10 phases before Van Zyl sped away for a try scored as Leyds tackled him. 34-26 and then 34-33.
This next try was scored when the only player on the field who was interested in the worst pass of the day, was Jesse Kriel.
The Stormers won a line out and the long pass went skidding along the ground amongst the backs. Suddenly Kriel had the ball and ran, unmolested, half the length of the field for a try under the posts. 34-33 with 11 minutes to play.
The Bulls broke out of their own 22 and burly Burger Odendaal was running with the ball till Senatla stopped him dead. Odendaal lost the ball forward and Leyds ran with it and chipped ahead. Senatla raced after the ball. It stood up generously and Senatla accepted the gift, running between the posts and scoring with the swankiest dive of the day.
It was the last outing of the season for the Bulls, but the Stormers return to Cape Town where they will host the Chiefs in a repeat of last year's quarterfinal.
Man of the match: Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel were two of the players that provided impetus and energy to the Bulls. Eben Etzebeth was a colossus with ball in hand and a rock on defence – while he was not bad in open play either. Scrumhalf Jano Vermaak was fast, accurate and skilful. Stormers fullback Dillyn Leyds and wing Cheslin Kolbe had a field day against porous Bulls defence. Of the two the better was Leyds – who wins our award.
For the Bulls:
Tries: Jenkins, Matthews, Kriel 2, Van Zyl
Cons: Schoeman 3, Jantjies
For the Stormers:
Tries: Kolbe, Notshe, Leyds, Kolisi, Willemse, Senatla
Cons: Williams 4
Yellow card: Conrad Janse van Vuuren (Bulls, 52 – foul play, high tackle)
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Duncan Matthews, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Nic de Jager, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Shaun Adendorff, 5 Rudolph Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Conrad Janse van Vuuren, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 John Roy Jenkinson, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tony Jantjies, 23 Burger Odendaal.
Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Jacobus Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Juarno Augustus, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Juan de Jongh, 23 Dan Kriel.
Referee: Kubo Shuhei (Japan)
Assistant referees: Federico Anselmi (Argentina), Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)