An emphatic 20-10 victory at Newlands saw the Stormers shoot to fourth position on the Super 14 log.
The Cape side’s fifth successive win pushes them ahead of the Chiefs, Sharks and Blues on the table. Another win over the Waratahs next week should book a semi-final spot, as the last league match against the Lions is a likely four points.
The opening 10 minutes were characterised by knock ons, but by the end of the first 40, the Newlands faithful were on their feet. The Stormers led 20-0 and had just completed a thrilling half of rugby. The attack bore fruit and the defence remained impenetrable. The Mexican Wave was rippling through the stands and the cheap seats had already claimed victory with enthusiastic cries of “Ole, ole, ole”.
The Stormers first try originated off a solid line-out win on halfway. The ball flew as far as Gcobani Bobo who surged through a yawning gap. The former Bok centre cracked on the pace and tried to wrong-foot the defence before offloading to captain Jean de Villiers. Flyhalf Peter Grant goaled the conversion followed by another penalty, and at 10-0, the hosts had got off to the best possible start.
The lead was stretched further when a botched Brumbies restart resulted in another try. Mark Gerrard changed direction and kicked short for his chasers, who had overshot the mark, and instead it was De Villiers who caught the ball and flew down the touchline. Gerrard’s cover tackle hauled him in, but not before the Bok No 12 flung an inside pass towards Bobo. Brumbies flyhalf Christan Lealiifano monstered Bobo off the ball, and referee Steve Walsh decided to award a penalty try under the posts.
The Stormers backline continued to test the Brumbies with numbers 9 through 15 finding holes in the visitors’ defence. De Villiers and Bobo were a handful, while fullback Conrad Jantjes had his best game of the season. Jantjes was also phenomenal on defence, his superb positional play nullifying the Brumbies tactical kicking game. It was always going to be a test for the Stormers as far as kicking was concerned, but they certainly got the better of the Brumbies in this department.
The hosts only scored another Grant penalty while Lealiifano was sidelined. Upon his return, the Brumbies launched a sustained assault on the Stormers’ tryline. The first line of defence was outstanding, and the cover was equally impressive.
The mercurial Stirling Mortlock was kept in check, but the Brumbies outside backs finally had their say in the 55th minute. Centre Tyrone Smith was scragged after making a great break, but found Adam Ashley-Cooper in support. Gerrard couldn’t convert, but at 20-5, the visitors had something to show for their effort.
The Stormers had dropped off the pace in the second half, and missed an opportunity to reply to Ashley-Cooper’s try due to a turnover. The Brumbies were playing catch-up rugby, however, and this resulted in forced passes and numerous knock ons. Even a late try wasn’t enough to salvage a bonus point.
The result sees the Stormers continuing their surge towards the semi-finals. Unfortunately for the Brumbies, the defeat at Newlands means a likely end to their campaign as far as the play-offs are concerned.
Stormers - Tries: Jean de Villiers, Penalty try. Conversions: Peter Grant (2). Penalties: Grant (2).
Brumbies - Tries: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Peter Kimlin.
By Jon Cardinelli