Two tries from full-back Joe Pietersen helped the Stormers end their Super 14 campaign on a high with a 28-22 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Although there was little to play for in terms of the Super 14, a number of players were vying for potential places in the Springbok squad to face the British and Irish Lions.
Top of list was the battle between the loose forwards where Luke Watson and Duane Vermeulen took on Juan Smith and Heinrich Brüssow with the respective captains the pick of the bunch. The tussle between the front rows was also red-hot, and the visitors were unexpected winners at scrum time.
With a number of former Cheetahs in the Stormers camp and vise versa, familiarity threatened to breed contempt, but it was Watson who came in for the most attention at the bottom of a ruck or two from the Cheetahs' hard men.
The Cheetahs were first to struck after Meyer Bosman used his turn of pace to accelerate through the Stormers' defence. Hendro Scholtz was up in support to offload to scrum-half Sarel Pretorius, who held on to score.
The home side continued to dominate the opening exchanges and hardly allowed the Stormers to touch the ball in the opening quarter of an hour. But the visitors would cash-in on their first decent possession when Dylan des Fountain backed himself to beat Jongi Nokwe and was just able to stretch out an arm to touch down.
Willem de Waal's conversion leveled the scores before the former Cheetah used his local knowledge to move the Stormers ahead with a penalty on twenty minutes. A period of scrappy play would follow with neither team able to gain the ascendency and tensions running high.
Cape Town exile Naas Olivier leveled the scores with a penalty with half time beckoning, but the Stormers would land a telling blow just before the hooter when twinkle toes Joe Pietersen profited from some sloppy Cheetahs defending to score. De Waal's extra's gave the visitors a 17-10 lead as the teams headed for the sheds with Cheetahs captain Juan Smith furious at his team's lack of application.
De Waal was on target again after the break to open the gap to ten points when the Cheetahs heavies were nailed for illegal scumming, and then again after 54 minutes when the home loose forwards were off their feet, to make the scores 23-10.
Pietersen put the Stormers further ahead after Gcobani Bobo committed two defenders before off-loading to the flying full-back, who finished in the corner.
A consolation try for Cheetahs replacement Nico Breedt with eight minutes to play, and then another break away try for lock David de Villiers on full time proved to be too little too late for the home side.
Man of the match: Joe Pietersen was excellent for the second match in a row and his two tries were just reward but we'll give the award to the Stormers front row, who finally came to the party - a couple of months late it must be said, but the were dominant nonetheless. Also, hats off to AJ Venter, who played his last of 125 Super Rugby games.
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Pretorius, Breedt, D. De Villiers
Cons: Olivier 2
For the Stormers:
Tries: Des Fountain 2, Pietersen
Cons: De Waal 2
Pens: De Waal 3
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Danwel Demas, 13 Corné Uys, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Hendro Scholtz, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 David de Villiers, 4 Wayne van Heerden, 3 Kobus Calldo, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 WP Nel, 18 Nico Breedt, 19 Kabamba Floors, 20 Gerrie Odendaal, 21 JW Jonker, 22 Fabian Juries.
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gcobani Bobo, 13 Dylan des Fountain, 12 Peter Grant, 11 Sireli Naqelevuki, 10 Willem de Waal, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Luke Watson (c), 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Pieter Louw, 5 AJ Venter, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Brock Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Wikus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Brian Mujati, 19 Martin Muller, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Morgan Newman, 22 Tonderai Chavhanga.
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Mark Lawrence (South Africa), Keith Brown (New Zealand)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)