Bulls coach Nollis Marais believes that the Stormers have the potential to challenge for the 2017 Super Rugby title - even if they are forced to play a knock-out fixture in New Zealand. Josh Isaacson reports.
The Stormers outscored the Bulls by six tries to five en route to a 41-33 victory at Loftus in Pretoria on Saturday.
The result did not have any impact on the final standings and play-off permutations as it was already confirmed before the match had kicked off that the Stormers will host New Zealand team, the Chiefs in a Super Rugby quarterfinal in Cape Town on Saturday.
The Stormers head into the play-offs full of confidence after back-to-back victories over the Sunwolves and the Bulls.
Speaking to reporters after the game on Saturday, Marais said that the Stormers have good enough players to challenge any team in the Super Rugby tournament.
"I think they [Stormers] a good side, world class players, Eben [Etzebeth] and Pieter-Steph [du Toit] and them, I think they got a good balanced side," commented Marais.
If the Stormers manage to beat the Chiefs at Newlands on Saturday, a potential trip to New Zealand awaits against the Crusaders in the semifinals.
The Stormers lost all three of their games against the Crusaders (24-57), Highlanders (14-57) and the Hurricanes (22-41) on their New Zealand tour during the 2017 Super Rugby regular season.
However, Marais explained that the experience of playing against New Zealand teams in their own home ground during the regular season will make it easier for the Stormers to play a semifinal fixture in New Zealand.
"It's always going to be difficult, they play one at home [quarterfinal against the Chiefs on Saturday] and then maybe away against a New Zealand side, but they are a good enough side and I think even the touring will be easier for them.
"Robbie [Fleck] said to me they got a bit hammered on tour, but they've been there [New Zealand] now, so they know what to expect, so I think they will do good," said Marais.
The last time the Stormers played the Chiefs in Cape Town was in a Round Seven Super Rugby this season and on that occasion the Stormers outscored the Chiefs by four tries to three en route to a 34-26 victory.
The last time the two teams did battle in a Super Rugby quarterfinal was in 2016 and on that occasion the Chiefs outscored the Stormers by eight tries to three in a one sided 60-21 victory for the Chiefs at Newlands Stadium.
2017 Super Rugby Quarterfinal Draw:
QF1: Lions  versus Sharks 
QF2: Crusaders  versus Highlanders 
QF3: Stormers  versus Chiefs 
QF4: Brumbies  versus Hurricanes 
Quarterfinal Match Schedule (all times local):
Friday, July 21: Brumbies v Hurricanes, Canberra - 19:35
Saturday, July 22: Crusaders v Highlanders, Christchurch - 19:35
Saturday, July 22: Lions v Sharks, Johannesburg - 14:30
Saturday, July 22 Stormers v Chiefs, Cape Town - 17:00
Pre-determined draw as follows (highest ranked team to host):
SF1: Winner QF1 v Winner QF4
SF2: Winner QF2 v Winner QF3