Cape Town - The Chiefs strengthened their Super 14 playoff claims considerably when they defeated the Stormers 28-14 in a Super 14 clash at Newlands on Saturday evening.
Although the final scoreline 28-14 suggested that the New Zealanders were twice as good as the Stormers, the visiting side had to work hard for their bonus-point win, which materialised only two minutes from the end, when they notched their fourth try.
The Chiefs made all the early running although they seldom managed to take play beyond the Stormers 10m line. They sprung one of their sorties from deep inside their 22m line and after Sosene Anesi was caught in possession, Stormers' stand-in skipper Schalk Burger forced a turn-over before sending his scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenhage blindside.
However, the cover defence dumped the nuggety scrumhalf into touch at the corner flag to avert danger for the visitors, who incurred a penalty in the process.
Stormers' flyhalf Willem de Waal's attempt from the touchline narrowly missed the target.
The Stormers suffered a major setback in the 10th minute when their fullback Conrad Jantjes suffered an injury which held up play for about four minutes before he was stretchered off.
His place was taken by Tiger Bax, the WP Vodacom Cup newcomer, who made his Super 14 debut.
The disruption did little to upset the Stormers' playing pattern and, after a strong breakaway run by eighthman Luke Watson, the Stormers finished off splendidly from a scrum 20 metres out when De Waal streaked through for the first try of the match. His conversion, in the 16th minute, gave the Stormers a deserving 7-0 lead.
The Chiefs' response need some 10 minutes before it could make an impact, ironically after the Stormers' defence impressed with several stout tackling efforts. In a passage of play in which the Chiefs worked the ball out wide in attempt to break down the stubborn defence, their flank Liam Messam finally found his way clear in the 25th minute when he ran in untouched to dot down next to the posts. Flyhalf Stephen Donald goaled the conversion to level the scores (7-7).
Moments later, the Stormers lost a second key player when Schalk Burger, who appeared to turn over his ankle, left the field. His place was taken by Pieter Louw, eight minutes ahead of the half-time break, and Watson assumed the captaincy.
The double setback for the Stormers took its toll on the stroke of half-time when the Chiefs' scrumhalf Toby Morland ran in for the visitors' second try, which was again converted by Donald (14-7).
The injuries to Jantjes (leg) and Burger (ankle) will be of great concern to the Springbok coach Peter de Villiers who already stands to lose the services of centre Adi Jacobs (shoulder) ahead of next month's Tests against the British & Irish Lions.
After a quiet start to the second half, the Stormers came alive in the 47th minute when flank Duane Vermeulen set off on a penetrative run near the Railway Stand touchline to transfer play from the Chiefs' 10m line to within five metres from the tryline where he was brought down by the cover defence.
Without support, nothing came of the promising raid by the livewire loosie.
After the Stormers managed to absorb a pressure spell by the Chiefs, who were twice held up just short of the tryline, leftwing Sireli Naqelevuki had the 25 000 crowd on its feet when he broke through the defence but again nothing came of the move as the defence contained the thrust out wide.
The crowd was easily the smallest to watch a Super 14 match at Newlands this season and the Stormers' poor results on the recent Australasian tour certainly had a bearing on the poor turn out.
There was more woe for the Stormers when Chiefs' patient build-up moves reaped reward in the 65th minute when Morland ran in for his second converted try (21-7).
This try immediately lifted the Chiefs' game as the prospects of a bonus point-try - and an elevated third place on the latest Super 14 standings, loomed large.
The Chiefs did manage a fourth try when substitute Richard Kahui ran in the 78th minute to seal his side's five-pointer (four a win and one bonus) which should strengthen the New Zealand's side claims for home semifinal. Another substitute Mike Delany converted (28-7).
At the death the Stormers doubled their score when Naqelevuki scored a try which Peter Grant converted (28-14).
Tries: Willem de Waal, Sireli Naqelevuki
Conversions: De Waal, Peter Grant
Tries: Liam Messam, Toby Moreland (2), Richard Kahui
Conversions: Stephen Donald (3), Mike Delany