By Mark Gleeson, Reuters
The Stormers recovered from conceding an early try to beat the Bulls 18-13 and win the United Rugby Championship (URC) title in an all-South African final at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.
The hosts fell behind after 150 seconds but, having been 7-3 down at the break, bounced back with a dominant second-half performance to win with tries from young talents Evan Roos and Andre-Hugo Venter.
Flyhalf Manie Libbock scored a penalty, conversion and late drop goal.
Harold Vorster scored the Bulls’ early try, converted by Chris Smith, who also put over two penalties.
An attritional clash was made even more difficult by poor weather and a slippery surface in front of a sell-out 31,000 crowd – half the capacity in a country where attendance at sports events is still restricted by Covid-19 regulations.
The Bulls made an immediate impact as hooker Johan Grobbelaar broke away from a maul and offloaded to Vorster for the centre to score.
Libbock, having missed an earlier effort, put the Stormers on the scoreboard on the stroke of halftime with a penalty but Smith restored the Bulls’ seven-point advantage with a penalty minutes after the interval.
Strong forward play and power mauling then saw the Stormers force their way into the game as 22-year-old loose forward Roos stretched over for their first try in the 45th minute.
Their 20-year-old substitute hooker Venter finished off a lineout maul 12 minutes later to put the Stormers 15-10 ahead, as the Bulls were reduced to 14 when centre Cornal Hendricks was sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle.
"The Bulls got off to a great start but I was very proud of our fight. Our guys gave it all," said winning captain Steven Kitshoff.
Smith reduced the lead to two points with a penalty 15 minutes from the end but Libbock’s drop goal five minutes from time proved the final score.
South African clubs made a slow start to this season’s URC campaign, competing against Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh opposition, but produced a strong showing in the second half of the season to see two franchises through to the final.
The competition formerly known as the PRO-14 was rebranded the URC at the start of this season after the entry of four South African franchises.
South African teams will also play next term for the first time in European club competition.