Stormers: Mission accomplished

2010-05-17 00:00

THE Bulls, as expected, did the Stormers a favour at Newlands by helping their South African hosts into the semi-finals of the Super 14 and by providing their confidence with a timely boost before the play-offs.

It has been six years since the Stormers last reached the semi-finals and this will be their first play-off at Newlands since 1999.

The keenly awaited Newlands clash, in front of a capacity crowd, was the climax to the Super 14 round robin action, but, predictably, it was a let-down as the Bulls, with their “B-team”, failed to match the organised, slicker Stormers and went down 38-10.

The Bulls, with their cushion at the top of the log, were already assured of a home semi-final and will now take on the fourth-placed Crusaders at Orlando Stadium in Soweto in the first of the semi-finals on Saturday.

This will be a replay of the controversial league meeting in the penultimate round of the competition when the Bulls scored after the final hooter to win. The Crusaders, though weary after travelling to and fro between South Africa and New Zealand, will believe they can reverse the result.

The Stormers made no mistake in putting the Bulls reserves away at Newlands to grab second place and set up a semi-final meeting against the NSW Waratahs.

The Bulls second-stringers arrived with some big names, but, hardly surprisingly, they perfomed like a pick-up team, lacking the cohesion and confidence to match their Super 14 opponents. They were badly exposed at forward, and for most of the game kicked away what little possession they did win. It was only in the closing quarter, when Stormers coach Allister Coetzee cleared his bench, that the Bulls finally threatened, but by then they were a distant second.

The Stormers, who had been badly exposed by the motivated Sharks a week earlier, will have benefited from a solid outing and a chance to rediscover their winning ways ahead of what will be a tough semi-final against the Waratahs.

“I just hope my team pitches for the semi-final,” Coetzee said after the Newlands win, adding that there are no injury concerns.

“We saw how well the team played when they pitched up against the Bulls in contrast to what we did against the Sharks.

“Reaching the play-offs is a goal we set ourselves this season and this is mission accomplished.

“The Waratahs are a much improved side with a big pack of forwards and we will have to be up for the game.”

Frans Ludeke, the Bulls coach, said his players had failed because they could not win any ball in the first half.

“The good thing about this match was that it was a good experience for the youngsters,” said Ludeke. “But now we’ll focus on our match in Orlando. Our boys will be fresh against the Crusaders and they’ve worked hard for us to be in the position where we are now.”

Bakkies Botha, the Bulls’ captain on the day, said he was proud of his young team.

“The Stormers are a fine side and the fact that we did not win the match was not important.”

This was the first time in six years that the Stormers have beaten the Bulls in a Super 14 fixture.

All the weekend games, by way of a change, went to the home teams and there were no surprises, although the Highlanders’ remarkable second-half showing almost took them to a win over the Queensland Reds in Brisbane. The Reds led 24-3 at the break with flyhalf Quade Cooper in magical form, but the Highlanders fought back to take the lead before a last-minute converted try saw the home team to a 38-36 win for fifth place and just out of the play-offs.

The Blues beat the Chiefs 30-20 in a scrappy game to take seventh place.

The Lions officially sealed their spot as the worst team in Super rugby history when they went down 59-10 to the Cheetahs in Welkom. The win allowed the Cheetahs to climb above the Chiefs into 10th place, while the Lions, with a points difference of minus 315, were whitewashed with 13 successive defeats.

The Waratahs and Crusaders sealed their semi-final berths with wins over the Hurricanes and Brumbies on Friday. The Sharks also beat the Western Force for their seventh win in their last eight games, but still only finished ninth.

WEEKEND SCORES AND SCORERS

Saturday

Stormers 38 Bulls 10

Stormers – Tries: Bryan Habana (2), Andries Bekker, Jaque Fourie; Conversions: Peter Grant (3); Penalties: Grant (4).

Bulls – Try: Ruan Snyman; Conversion: Francois Brummer; Penalty: Jacques-Louis Potgieter.

Reds 38 Highlanders 36

Reds – Tries: Poutasi Luafutu (2), Digby Ioane, Radike Samo, Peter Hynes, Quade Cooper; Conversions: Cooper (4). Highlanders – Tries: Fetu’u Vainikolo (2), Israel Dagg, Chris King, Jason Rutledge. Conversions: Dagg (4); Penalty: Dagg.

Cheetahs 59 Lions 10

Cheetahs – Tries: Henie Daniller (2), Bjorn Basson (2), Sarel Pretorius (2), Barend Pieterse, Corne Uys, Coenie Oosthuizen; Conversions: Naas Olivier (6), Louis Strydom. Lions – Try: Michael Killian; Conversion: Herkie Kruger; Penalty: Kruger

Blues 30-Chiefs 20

Blues – Tries: Rudi Wulf (2), Paul Williams, Benson Stanley, Alby Mathewson; Conversion: Stephen Brett; Penalty: Brett. Chiefs – Tries: Liam Messam, Save Tokula; Conversions: Trent Renata (2); Penalties: Renata (2).

Friday’s results

Sharks 27 Western Force 22

Crusaders 40 Brumbies 22

Waratahs 32 Hurricanes 16

SEMI-FINAL LINE-UP ON SATURDAY

Bulls vs Crusaders at Orlando Stadium, 5.00pm (referee Stuart Dickinson, Australia).

Stormers vs Waratahs at Newlands, 7.10pm (referee Mark Lawrence, South Africa).

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