Cheslin Kolbe scored a second hat-trick within eight days as Western Stormers sealed third place in the Super Rugby overall standings by beating Sunwolves 52-15 in Cape Town Saturday.
After a humiliating 87-point drubbing from Golden Lions in Johannesburg last weekend, the Japanese restricted the South Africans to a 19-10 half-time lead at Newlands stadium.
But a much-improved Tokyo outfit ran out of gas in the closing stages and conceded three late tries with winger Kolbe scoring two of them.
The diminutive back was first to score in the round 16 match, skilfully picking up the ball when it flew out of a ruck and darting to the tryline on eight minutes.
Kolbe scored three tries last Saturday in an away victory over fellow South Africans Central Cheetahs.
The bonus-point win ensured the Stormers of third place with one league round remaining before the quarter-finals.
Australian qualifiers ACT Brumbies can match the 39-point total of the Stormers, but have won three fewer matches and the number of victories is the first tie-breaker.
By convincingly winning the Africa 1 conference, Stormers earn a home last-eight fixture, but will still be underdogs against Wellington Hurricanes or Waikato Chiefs of New Zealand.
Beauden Barrett-inspired Hurricanes are the title-holders and Chiefs were champions in 2012 and 2013.
Despite the eight-try-to-two triumph, Stormers skipper and flanker Siya Kolisi said he was happy with the result, but not the overall display.
"I was not happy with our first half display, which left much to be desired. There was some improvement in the second half, though.
"We will have to perform much better when the Hurricanes or the Chiefs come to Cape Town for the quarter-finals.
"What I did find encouraging, though, ahead of tougher tests was the performances of our youngsters with flanker Juarno Augustus making a good starting debut."
South Africa-born loose forward and Sunwolves skipper Willie Britz said his team put up a much braver performance after the mauling from the Lions.
"We did contribute to our downfall by giving away some soft tries, but I am proud of our performance because there was far more commitment than in Johannesburg.
"What we need is continuity in our starting line-up because at the moment we rarely field the same side on successive weekends.
"Our ball-in-hand approach excites me, but we need to work much harder on defence and make those one-on-one tackles count," he stressed.
Kolbe (three), centre EW Viljoen, winger Seabelo Senatla, fly-half Damian Willemse and full-back Dillyn Leyds (two) were Stormers' try scorers.
Teenager Willemse kicked four conversions and Kolbe two.
Sunwolves tries came from winger Teruya Goto and hooker Takeshi Hino and fly-half Yu Tamura slotted one conversion and one penalty.
© 2017 AFP