Bring on the Bulls!

That was the emphatic message from Stormers No 8 Joe van Niekerk after Saturday’s stunning 28-17 victory over the Crusaders at Newlands.

Van Niekerk produced a giant performance and, in spite of the fact that the Stormers play the Sharks this coming weekend, is looking forward to avenging last year’s humiliating 75-14 defeat at Loftus.

“Everyone wants the Bulls,” van Niekerk told the Cape Times. “I hope the confidence that we built with the win over the Crusaders can snowball. The big thing for us now is to play consistently well,” said Van Niekerk.

Cape Times rugby writer Stephen Nell wrote that on the evidence of the Stormers’ performance on Saturday, a Newlands showdown with their arch-rivals, who stayed in the semifinal hunt with a 34-27 win over the Sharks, is a terrific prospect.

Nell added that Kobus van der Merwe’s side was barely recognisable from the one that had failed to win in their previous five games in this campaign at Newlands.

He said their play was constructive, but defence was the rock on which the victory was built. They oozed passion, commitment and class, reinforcing the view that this Stormers side can become a very good one in years to come.

A little luck also helps. Flyhalf Peter Grant would have been penalised for a double movement had his “try” been referred to the television match official. The awarding thereof three minutes into the second half ensured that the Stormers sustained their momentum and gave them an 18-3 lead. But, as the saying goes, you make your own luck, and the Stormers deserved it.

Van der Merwe was humble in victory. “We are not gloating at all. One performance does not make us a fantastic team,” he said.

A feature of the Stormers’ performance was the fine performances of senior players, in particular the Springboks. “It’s very important that the senior players perform well. I told De Wet (Barry) his performance against the Reds was one of the best I had ever seen from him and he raised the bar even higher,” said Van der Merwe.

“The same goes for Jean (de Villiers), Joe and Eddie (Andrews). Schalk (Burger) also had a stormer. Tonight we had 22 players on the same wavelength.”

De Villiers gave the Stormers a steadiness in their back-three combination that they hadn’t previously had in their campaign. His composure rubbed off on fullback Joe Pietersen, who was at times mesmerising with the ball in hand.

Van der Merwe hinted that he might rest Burger and loosehead prop JD Moller for Saturday’s match against the Sharks. Both have shouldered immense workloads in the campaign.