A much improved second half performance from the Stormers earned an 18-13 victory over the Bulls at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday in an all-South Africa maiden United Rugby Championship (URC) final.The Cape Town outfit were fortunate to be only 7-3 behind at half-time after a timid first-half from them before a crowd restricted to 31,000 — half the capacity — by coronavirus protocols.
It took the Stormers 31 minutes to get inside the Bulls’ 22 and their first points, from a Manie Libbok penalty, came in the third minute of added time at the end of the opening half.
But the only similarity between the Stormers of the first half and the second was their dark blue outfit as they took control, greatly reduced handling errors and sued tactical kicking to good effect.
Within six minutes they were level at 10-10 and replacement hooker Andre-Hugo Venter, a son of former Springbok Andre, scored a pushover try when the Bulls were a man short due to a yellow card.
A Libbok drop goal five minutes from time sealed success for the Stormers and their flanker, Deon Fourie, celebrated his 100th appearance for the team with a winners’ medal and man-of-the-match award
“We were poor in the first half,” admitted Fourie, who has been called by the Springboks for a three-Test tour by Wales during July.
“But the vibe was good in the change room at half-time because we knew we could still win. We drastically reduced the number of unforced errors and kept the ball far more.”
Loose forward Evan Roos was the Stormers’ other try scorer and Libbok slotted a conversion, a penalty and a drop goal.
Centre Harold Vorster scored a try for the Bulls and fly-half Chris Smith kicked the conversion and two penalties.
Defeat completed a disappointing weekend for the Bulls from Pretoria after surrendering a two-year grip on the Currie Cup, the major national competition, on Friday when the reserves lost in the semi-finals.
The URC is a 16-team competition with four sides each from Ireland, South Africa and Wales plus two each from Italy and Scotland.
Stormers, Bulls, Sharks and Lions competed in the former Pro14 for the first time this season while two other South Africans sides, the Cheetahs and Kings, dropped out.
Hot favourites and Champions Cup runners-up Leinster were beaten by the Bulls in the semi-finals and fellow Irish outfit Ulster lost to the Stormers.