A 74th-minute Sikhumbuzo Notshe converted try proved to be the difference between the Stormers and the Cheetahs in a highly entertaining 40-34 victory for the Cape side.
A total of 10 tries were scored between the sides - Cheetahs with four and Stormers six - in a match that saw the lead change hands on a few occasions. Cheslin Kolbe had a wonderful day, claiming three of those tries.
Stormers on the front foot early and a flowing move that involved most of the players resulted in speedy wing Cheslin Kolbe racing down the touchline to grab the first try of the game in the third minute. Sarel Marias added the conversion to ensure an early 7-0 lead.
The Cheetahs applied immediate pressure on the Stormers' defence and found reward in the eighth minute when Reniel Hugo powered his way over from close range. Neil Marais added the conversion to level the scores at 7-7.
The Cheetahs had their tails up and took the lead in the 18th minute when Neil Marais slotted a penalty after the Stormers infringed closed to their 22.
The Stormers regained the lead a few minutes later when flyhalf Damien Willemse opened up the Cheetahs' defence. Some neat interplay then saw the young flyhalf race over the line and score under the uprights. Kolbe added the extras to take a 14-10 lead after 21 minutes.
Neil Marais was sent to the bin in the 26th minute for cynically kicking the ball away and Stormers took immediate advantage as Kolbe got the ball in acres of space and went over for his second try of the match. He added his second conversion of the game to stretch his side's lead to 21-10.
A blistering attack by the Stormers placed the Cheetahs under pressure on their 22. Blommetjies managed to turn over possession but a wayward offload found Seabelo Senatla, who collected the ball and cantered over. Kolbe failed with the conversion attempt but the visitors extended their lead to 26-10 after 32 minutes.
The Cheetahs had the final say of the half though as they benefitted from Rynhardt Elstadt being sent to the bin. A simple line-out and powerful maul saw hooker Elandre Huggett dotting down. Neil Marais added the extras to trail 17-26 at the half-time interval.
The home side was the first on the board in the second half when N Marais added his second penalty of the game to narrow the deficit to 20-26 after 48 minutes.
The Stormers hit back a few minutes later when the forwards and backs linked up to keep the ball alive in open play. The end result saw Kolbe race away for his hat-trick. He added the extras to ensure a 33-20 lead after 53 minutes.
The see-saw nature of the game continued as the home side hit back with a converted try of their own as Clinton Swart ran onto the ball at pace. He powered his way towards the line to dot down, despite the best efforts of the Stormers' defence. N Marais added the extras to trail 27-33 in the 56th minute.
The Cheetahs then took the lead for the second time in the game when captain Francois Venter went on a brilliant run that opened up the Stormers' defence. He broke from the halfway line before offloading to Raymond Rhule about six metres short of the Stormers' try-line. The wing dotting down for his side's fourth try.
N Marais added the extras to ensure a slender 34-33 lead after 62 minutes.
The Stormers continued to plug away at their opponents and found reward through loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe. From an attacking line-out, the Stormers set up a maul. Bongi Mbonambi broke free and found Notshe just before the try-line to dot down.
Kolbe added the tricky conversion to ensure a 40-34 lead after 74 minutes.
The match ended on a sour note though as both Henco Venter and Rynhardt Elstadt were shown red cards for striking each other in the face.
Man of the match: Elandre Huggett executed his basic duties perfectly while also contributing with ball-in-hand and defence. Clinton Swart had a few powerful runs that kept the Stormers' defence on their toes. Damian Willemse can smile for the next few days after living up to the hype that surrounded him. There was, however, one person who not only scored a hat-trick but put in a good defensive effort while also coming off his wing to look for work. Not to mention his place-kicking - our man of the match, Cheslin Kolbe.
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Hugo, Huggett, Swart, Rhule
Cons: N Marais 4
Pens: N Marias 2
For the Stormers:
Tries: Kolbe 3, Willemse, Senatla, Notshe
Cons: Marais, Kolbe 4
Yellow cards: Neil Marais (Cheetahs, 26; cynical infringement - kicking the ball away); Rynhardt Elstadt (Stormers, 38; cynical infringement); Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers, 55; dangerous play - high tackle)
Red cards: Henco Venter (Cheetahs, 80; strike to the face); Rynhardt Elstadt (Stormers, 80; strike to the face)
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Henco Venter, 5 Daniel Hugo, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Elandre Huggett, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Justin Basson, 20 Chris Dry, 21 Fred Zeilinga, 22 Ruan van Rensburg, 23 William Small-Smith.
Stormers: 15 Sarel Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Frans Malherbe (captain), 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 John Dave Schickerling, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 EW Viljoen, 23 Seabelo Senatla.
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)