The Stormers booked themselves a second successive Super Rugby semi-final at home thanks to a 44-34 win over the Cheetahs.
The Stormers booked themselves a second successive Super Rugby semi-final at home thanks to a 44-34 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Eight tries were scored – four apiece – in an entertaining final round derby clash that brings the curtain down on regular season play as attention now turns to the play-offs.
The Cheetahs made their South African counterparts sweat for their bonus-point victory, but the result was never in doubt with Stormers pivot Peter Grant keeping the scoreboard ticking over with an impressive kicking display.
In his first match back from a lengthy injury spell on the sidelines, Grant contributed 24 points from the tee that included three conversions and six penalties.
The Stormers were worthy winners, having led for the majority of the match. But kudos to the Cheetahs who never gave up – scoring a try on the stroke of half-time to trail 13-19 at the break, and making a fist of it in the second with wing Ryno Benjamin bagging a hat-trick.
The game was tight for the first quarter of the match with Grant and opposite number Sias Ebersohn taking turns at goal. The Cheetahs pivot scored first three minutes into the game, but Grant equalled the scores soon after.
Ebersohn gave his side the lead 17 minutes into the first half with another successful three-pointer, however the Stormers once again drew the scores level as Grant converted his second penalty attempt.
Fleet footed full-back Gio Aplon, however, stole the initiative for the home side as he sprinted through for the Stormers' first try of the night. Grant converted and stretched his side's lead to 13 points with another penalty a few minutes later.
The Cheetahs demonstrated their never-say-die attitude just before the break when number eight Devon Raubenheimer went over in the corner after some good build-up work by the Cheetahs forwards and backs.
Ebersohn converted to bring the Cheetahs within six points before half-time.
The Stormers came out firing after the break though, Duane Vermeulen proved exactly why he is in line to make Springbok World Cup squad as he had a part in many of the visitors' attacks.
Seven minutes into the second half, Stormers centre Juan de Jongh handed off Raubenheimer en route to the tryline as he gave his team an 11-point cushion.
Shortly after the restart, replacement loose forward Nick Koster crossed the whitewash as he took advantage of the Cheetahs' lapse in defence. Grant's conversion saw the Stormers enjoy a healthy 31-13 lead.
The Cheetahs, however, did not give up as Benjamin scored the first of his three tries. However, Stormers wing Bryan Habana followed up Grant's restart and fielded the ball after it had rebounded off his knee and sprinted through for an opportunistic try.
Habana's try and yet another Grant penalty sealed the victory.
However it did not break the Cheetahs' spirit as Benjamin pulled off his third try of the evening that was celebrated as if the home side had won the match.
Tries: Raubenheimer, Benjamin 3
Cons: Ebersohn 4
Pens: Ebersohn 2
Tries: Aplon, De Jongh, Koster, Habana
Pens: Grant 6
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Viljoen, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Barry Geel, 11 Ryno Benjamin, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Davon Raubenheimer, 7 Ashley Johnson, 6 Johan Wessels, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Francois Uys, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Lourens Adriaanse, 18 Izak Van Der Westhuizen, 19 Pieter Myburgh, 20 Tewis De Bruyn, 21 Corne Uys, 22 Riaan Smit.
Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Jean de Villiers, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (c), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Anton van Zyl, 19 Nick Koster, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Johann Sadie 22 Conrad Jantjes.
Referee: Marius Jonker