They've done it again! The Bulls successfully defended their Super 14 crown by seeing off the Stormers 25-17 in Soweto on Saturday.
They've done it again! The Bulls successfully defended their Super 14 crown by seeing off the Stormers 25-17 at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Saturday.
The back-to-back title victory means the Bulls have now won the southern hemisphere spectacle three times, equaling the Blues, and proved to be worthy winners after dominating this year's championship from start to finish.
Electric winger Francois Hougaard scored the only try for the home side, while the rest of the points were once again left to the mercurial boot of Morne Steyn who kicked a whopping twenty points for his team.
The eight-point winning margin may seem like a close affair fought out between the two physical South African finalists, but there was always only one team in it – a late seven-pointer giving the Stormers' defeat a bit of respectability.
The visitors may have outscored their hosts by two tries to one, but Steyn kept the Bulls in front throughout the match with an accurate kicking display that assured them a last ever Super 14 trophy before the tournament's expansion next year.
To the drone of a thousand vuvuzelas, the Bulls' success in this final was undoubtedly determined by their kicking game… again. Steyn's stratosphere-seeking bombs were well complemented by a Bulls' kick chase that left more than a few Stormers smarting.
The hosts provided the typical physicality at the collisions, but it was the accuracy in their kicking game that allowed them to win the territorial battle. From there, they squeezed, and a tentative Stormers team did all they could just to stay in the contest.
Light rain also increased the handling challenge, as the Stormers attempted to keep more ball in hand. It was a tactic that worked to a degree, but some clever breakdown countering by the Bulls usually resulted in a turnover. The home defence was outstanding, but the Bulls' job was made easier by the fact that the Stormers' attack grew more desperate with every minute as the clock wound its way down.
Both sides made bright starts to the match, seeing plenty of possession without making the most of it, in what was a historic game for South African rugby – a major final of a predominantly white sport being played in a black area in a country where racial tensions still exist.
The game had to wait 10 minutes for its first points, which predictably came from the boot of Steyn after Wicus Blaauw conceded a penalty right in front for illegal scrumming. At the same point, the hosts were dealt a blow with Gerhard van den Heever having to go off with what looked like a pulled muscle and Jaco van der Westhuyzen coming on instead.
The lead was doubled shortly after when Jaque Fourie's error of interfering in a maul handed another opportunity to Steyn which he duly took.
The visitors tried to hit and were almost on the board with their first foray towards the Bulls' line, only for Schalk Burger's touchdown to be ruled out for double movement of the ball on the line.
When the ball went back down the other end, Steyn extended the lead to 9-0 after the Stormers failed to roll away from the maul.
Injury then struck the visitors with Juan de Jongh, one of their star players of the season, having to go off.
And with that followed the opening try of the game – Fourie du Preez's short pass to Hougaard sending him away on a run through the middle with the winger rounding Joe Pietersen to score under the post.
Steyn added the extras, before the Cape side finally got points on the board in the 30th minute when Peter Grant sent over an easy kick after Danie Rossouw was penalised for not rolling away in the tackle.
It was 16-3 at half-time and Grant missed a difficult chance to cut the lead straight afterward with a penalty that faded away to the right.
As the game began to labour, former Bulls star Bryan Habana silenced the home crowd by intercepting a Steyn pass on the halfway line and running in under the post. Grant added the extras to cut the gap to six, but two further penalties either side of a rare miss by Steyn midway through the final quarter deflated the visiting side.
They had little to offer in the final ten minutes and another three-pointer from the Springbok fly-half sealed the win, before a late consolation try from Pieter Louw gave the small following of Stormers' supporters at least something to cheer about.
Man of the match: With injured Springbok flyer JP Pietersen ruled out for the upcoming internationals, Hougaard proved to be South Africa's answer on the wing following another menacing display. However, a masterful performance by half-backs Fourie du Preez and Morne Steyn mean the Bulls duo share this award after inspiring their team to another well-earned title.
Pens: Steyn 6
Tries: Habana, Louw
Con: Grant 2
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 MornÃ© Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Gary Botha, 1 GurthrÃ¶ Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Bees Roux, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Derick KuÃ¼n, 20 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 21 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 22 Pedrie Wannenburg.
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (c), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 JC Kritzinger, 18 Anton van Zyl, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Willem de Waal, 22 Tim Whitehead.
Referee: Craig Joubert