The Bulls played more rugby and made more errors, the Stormers capitalised better on mistakes and an exciting but not always quality main game at the Cape Town Stadium was won by 33-28 by the Stormers on Sunday.
Both sides made close to 20 handling errors, and too many penalties from especially the Bulls will add to the two team’s coaching staff uneasiness about what still has to be done before the same two teams meet in less than two weeks when the Super Rugby series kicks off.
Before a capacity crowd, the new-approach Bulls looked dangerous with ball in hand and tan well and often. However, they were their own worst enemies with three early tries and 21 points gifted to the Stormers without there being much pressure to force the mistakes.
At times the Bulls backline looked impressive and dangerous and they generally had the better of the first half when both teams still played with virtually their announced run-on sides.
The Bulls turner the 0-21 deficit into a halftime lead of 28-26, and then lost the match right at the end when the Stormers scored the only second-half points from a sustained pick-and-drive attack on the Bulls line.
There was much to appreciate in the game when the Bulls slick handling at times showed a new-found belief in running with the ball. They also dominated up front but, amidst all the running mistakes were bound to slip in and that is what cost them the game.
It is also an approach that they will undoubtedly use much more sparingly when the two sides meet in their first Super Rugby match.
Both Stormers coach Robbie Fleck and Bulls counterpart Pote Human gave their 26 bench players plenty of game time in the second half when only that single (winning) try by the Cape side was scored and both in the course of the match also used ‘rolling’ subs.
They will no doubt be able to read much more into what happened and what pleased or disappointed them than the observers. What is certain, is that both sides are not quite ready for Super Rugby action, but that their clash at Loftus on 16 February could be a memorable one.
Stormers (26) 33: Tries: Seabelo Senatla, Josh Stander, SP Marais, Juarno Augustus, Chris van Zyl. Conversions: Marais (2), Stander, Damian Willemse.
Bulls (28) 28: Tries: Handré Pollard, Ivan van Zyl, Warrick Gelant, Paul Schoeman. Conversions: Pollard (3), Manie Libbok.
Lions win scrappy early match
As much action and excitement as the main match provided, so little was there to enthuse about in the earlier clash between the Lions and the Sharks, deservedly won 19-14 by the Lions.
They were better behind the scrum with five Boks in their backline and flyhalf Elton Jantjies outstanding, but one did get the impressions that the Lions will struggle up front where the Sharks, without their first choice players, were the more aggressive unit.
As was the case in the later match between the Stormers and Bulls, there were handling errors aplenty and also too many penalties to make it a memorable match.
Lions (7) 19: Tries: Malcolm Marx, Courtnall Skosan, Sylvian Mahuza. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2).
Sharks (7) 14: Tries: Makazole Mapimpi, Akker van der Merwe. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2).