Sevens star Seabelo Senatla scored with 73 seconds left to seal a 41-33 win for the Stormers over the Bulls on Saturday in a lively Super Rugby “dead rubber”.
Stormers scored six tries and Bulls five to entertain the crowd at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria in a final-round league match where only pride was at stake.
The Cape Town-based Stormers had already won the Africa 1 conference and secured a home quarter-final against twice former champions the Chiefs.
Outgoing Bulls coach Nollis Marais would have loved to finish a dismal season with a win, but it was not to be and New Zealander John Mitchell takes charge next season.
Some of the tries came from the top drawer as South African players gradually come to terms with a more ball-in-hand approach than the long-favoured kick-and-chase style.
The lack of pressure on the teams probably helped deliver an action-packed match in which the Bulls built a seven-point lead only to fall 34-21 behind in the second half.
A couple of tries for the home side narrowed the gap to a single point before a 78th-minute turnover set up the match-clinching score for flying winger Senatla.
Bulls replacement back Burger Odendaal was dispossessed inside Stormers territory and when Senatla gathered a kick into space, there was no catching him.
Senatla was a key figure early in the World Rugby Sevens Series season for eventual champions South Africa before opting for the 15-a-side game.
Young fly-half Damian Willemse converted to complete the scoring and finish with 16 points from a try, four conversions and a penalty.
Winger Cheslin Kolbe scored the first Stormers’ try to take his tally to seven from three matches after successive hat-tricks.
Flanker Sikhumbuzo Notshe, full-back Dillyn Leyds, revelling in his new role since a switch from the left wing, and skipper and flanker Siya Kolisi were the Stormers’ other try scorers.
Lock Jason Jenkins, winger Duncan Matthews, centre Jesse Kriel (two) and replacement scrum-half Piet van Zyl scored tries for the Bulls.
Bordeaux-bound fly-half Tian Schoeman slotted three conversions and substitute playmaker Tony Jantjies one.
Stormers completed the regular season with 10 victories and five losses to finish 22 points ahead of Africa 1 pool runners-up the Cheetahs.
The Bulls managed just four wins and 11 losses, including a 62-24 thrashing at home to the Crusaders.