STORMERS 26 MELBOURNE REBELS 21
So close ... Rebels departing centre Stirling Mortlock will end his Super Rugby career on a losing note. Photo: Getty Images
The Melbourne Rebels were unable to send their retiring skipper Stirling Mortlock out a winner but gave Super Rugby competition front-runners the Stormers a fright before losing 26-21 in Cape Town.
The Rebels hoped to snare their first ever win in South Africa and impressed but the Stormers, already secure in the finals, did enough to hold on for a win.
It was the second week of heartbreak for Melbourne after a five-point loss to the Lions in Johannesburg.
Melbourne got to within two points inside the final 10 minutes when Wallabies aspirant Cooper Vuna, who came off the bench, touched down after combining with James Hilgendorf and replacement halfback Nick Stirzacker.
It was the second fight-back from the Rebels, who have developed a reputation for their never-say-die approach.
They also got to within two points with two tries within three minutes early in the second half after trailing 16-0 at half-time.
Prop Rodney Blake managed to get a ball down as the Rebels rolled over the line and then halfback Nick Phipps scored the second as his own pass went to ground only for him to scoop it up and dive across the line.
But the Stormers responded in style as Springboks winger Bryan Habana snatched the ball from the re-start and his side built pressure until centre Juan de Jongh found a hole to score his second try of the match.
Superboot five-eighth Peter Grant continued his phenomenal form with the boot to convert for a 23-14 lead to give his shocked side some breathing place.
Former Wallabies skipper Mortlock announced last month he planned to hang up his boots at the end of the Super season and the Rebels were also farewelling a number of other players.
Lock Al Campbell is also retiring while fullback Julian Huxley is headed to France and centre Mark Gerrard to Japan.
STORMERS 26 (Juan De Jongh 2 tries Peter Grant 2 cons 4 pens) bt MELBOURNE REBELS 21 (Rodney Blake, Nick Phipps, Cooper Vuna tries Julian Huxley 3 cons) at Newlands Rugby Stadium. Referee: Lourens van der Merwe.