The Bulls saw their play-off hopes disintegrate on Saturday as they went down 16-0 against the Stormers at Newlands in Cape Town.
The Bulls saw their slim Super Rugby play-off aspirations disintegrate on Saturday as they went down 16-0 against the Stormers at Newlands.
Frans Ludeke's side knew they simply had to win against their South African rivals but instead were nilled as the Stormers were the worthy victors.
The result leaves the side from Pretoria seven points off the top six going into the final round while the hosts moved to within a point of them.
It was a powerful opening from the impressive Stormers as they tested out the Bulls defence in the visitors 22 but as has been the case so often this season, capitalising on numbers wide out after some positive phase play was not evident. Kurt Coleman's penalty came as consolation.
The pace of the game continued to impress as both sides won key breakdown turnovers – the first from Stormers hooker Deon Fourie before Bulls scrum-half Francois Hougaard pounced – with the rain earlier in the week having cleared to create decent conditions. It was therefore apparent that a try wasn't too far in coming.
That proved to be the case when Coleman found Nizaam Carr in midfield before the flanker put in full-back Jaco Taute for what was now a 10-0 lead with Coleman's successful kick.
Coleman made it a thirteen-point lead on 25 minutes as the Bulls and Victor Matfield looked rattled. In truth Matfield had a point as that penalty arrived soon after Ruan Botha entered a maul set up from a line-out that hadn't gone the fifteen metres Craig Joubert stated.
Meanwhile the Stormers were continuing to build a cushion as their dominance in territory and possession bore fruit, this time Bulls hooker Callie Visagie caught off his feet at a ruck to allow Coleman to take his tally to eleven, which was how it stayed until the interval.
Things wouldn't improve for the Bulls immediately after the resumption as discipline proved their undoing when after winning a scrum penalty, Dean Greyling went looking for Deon Fourie to provoke the hooker. After spotting this, Joubert rightly reversed the kickable penalty.
Cue the rain pouring down in Cape Town as that sixteen-point deficit suddenly looked more difficult to recover from. However, they wouldn't die trying as they began to knock on the door with a driving line-out almost leading to a score before Schalk Burger pounced at ruck time.
And the trend continued past the hour mark at Newlands as once again some excellent breakdown work from the Stormers resulted in yet another turnover in the home side's 22.
The match was close to being settled on 66 minutes when from another Bulls spell, a loose ball was collected by Gio Aplon, who set off downfield before Cheslin Kolbe was hauled into touch five out. The Stormers wouldn't be too concerned though as territory was now theirs.
Another three points for Coleman was a post's width away from coming as consolation when Matfield was penalised for taking Botha out in the air, however the fly-half struck the upright before more spillages due to the slippery ball led to a sloppy finish to the contest.
Pen: Coleman 3
Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger (c), 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Martin Dreyer, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Seabelo Senatla.
Bulls: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 HandrÃ© Pollard, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Grant Hattingh, 7 Jacques Engelbrecht, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Victor Matfield (capt), 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Marcel van der Merwe, 18 MornÃ© Mellett, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 23 William Small-Smith.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa), Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)