Bulls crush Springbok-laden Stormers in match shortened by storm

Johannesburg (AFP) –


A rampant Bulls team went six points clear at the top of the South African Super Rugby Unlocked table Saturday after a 39-6 victory over the Stormers in a fourth round match that never finished.

Play was suspended on 64 minutes at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria when referee AJ Jacobs informed the teams that an electrical storm was 7.5 kilometres (4.7 miles) away and it was unsafe to continue playing.

Following a 30-minute delay, the match was officially called off and the score declared the official result with the Bulls also securing a bonus point for notching five tries.

A surprisingly easy success lifted the Bulls to 15 points, six more than the Cheetahs and Sharks and seven above the Stormers.

After labouring to a narrow home win over perennial strugglers the Griquas and losing away to the Cheetahs, the Bulls have used home advantage to crush the Sharks and Stormers on successive weekends.

Having sunk the Sharks by 27 points, South African rugby followers were anticipating a much closer match against a Stormers team including six 2019 Springbok World Cup winners.

But after taking a 6-3 lead on 14 minutes, a Stormers side skippered by prop Steven Kitshoff in the absence of injured Springboks captain Siya Kolisi fell apart to trail 32-6 by half-time.

Hooker Johan Grobbelaar, centre Stedman Gans, scrum-half Ivan van Zyl and lock Ruan Nortje crossed for tries and veteran fly-half Morne Steyn slotted three conversions and two penalties.

- Embarrassing scrum retreats -

The Cape Town visitors fell further behind when Gans scored his second try and Steyn converted to complete a goal-kicking performance in which he succeeded with six of eight attempts.

Fly-half Damian Willemse kicked two penalties for the Stormers, who were suffering a first loss in the single-round competition after victories over the Lions and the Pumas.

While the Stormers matched the Bulls at the lineouts, they suffered several embarrassing scrum retreats, especially given they boasted an all-Springbok front row of Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi and Frans Malherbe.

But the major difference was the Bulls' far greater hunger for the ball in the loose and clinical finishing when the tryline came within sight.

The Bulls are a transformed side under 2007 Springboks Rugby World Cup-winning coach Jake White, who made huge changes when he took over early this year with many signings and departees.

Veteran back-row forward Duane Vermeulen has been an inspirational leader and previously unknown centre Gans is the joint leading try scorer with four in the competition.

Steyn, a 36-year-old who returned to South Africa last season after seven years with Paris outfit Stade Francais, is the leading points scorer with 47 from 10 conversions and nine penalties.

Meanwhile, the Sharks recovered from the mauling by the Bulls to score six converted tries in a 42-19 triumph over the Pumas in Mbombela.

The Sharks hookers were particularly happy with Dan Jooste scoring a try and his replacement off the bench, Kerron van Vuuren, bagging a brace.