Despite the loss, the Chiefs can walk away from Loftus Versfeld with their heads held high. They have created their own history, and their Pretoria nightmare will stand them in good stead for the future.
But we must pay homage to an awesome Bulls team.
For the second time in third years, they have won the southern hemisphere’s ultimate symbol of rugby supremacy. The first time was done in the harshest of environments, playing in Durban, against the only fellow South African side (the Sharks) that dares to challenge their supremacy.
Supremacy is a supremely apt word, for on the evidence of their display at Loftus, even a full strength tier one test team would have struggled to contain the might of the new 2009 Super 14 champions.
Conventional wisdom has stated that a championship team needs certain aspects to be a winning unit. One truism is that a team needs to have at least 2-3 world class players in order to be of title winning vintage.
The Bulls contain two men whom are not only world class, but would feature among a debate that determines the world’s best players. Period.
And in Victor Matfield and Fourie Du Preez, the Bulls have two players of such overwhelming class that many test nations would be lucky to claim as their own.
Add to these players Gurthro Steenkamp, Bakkies Botha, Pierre Spies, Bryan Habana, Wynand Olivier and Akona Ndungane, and players off the bench like Chilliboy Ralepelle, Danie Rossouw and Pedrie Wannenburg—all of whom are Springboks—and it gives some indication to the Bulls strength when half of their starting 22 are test players.
Lest we forget Morné Steyn and Zane Kirchner, who both should be front line options for the Springboks.
On the evidence of the South African XV’s (a Springbok team sans Bulls players) match against a Namibian invitational side—the Springbok side won 36-7 but were only 8-7 ahead at half time, and looked unconvincing throughout—one would think that the bulk of Peter De Villiers front line selection will come from the new Super 14 champions.
A team that contains no less than six of the 22 players that won the World Cup final, and should constitute close to half of Peter De Villiers first Springbok team of 2009; his potential Lion tamers.
A team that appears to be building a new Super rugby dynasty.
The Chiefs, will reflect on this loss, and will be a force next year now that their young players have been exposed to the harshest of rugby worlds.
Loftus Versfeld, even the name sounds intimidating; and against a team littered with men who have won a World Cup, a Super 14 title, and would be featured amongst a national team that will not only be facing the fabled British and Irish Lions, but will be mounting a terrifying challenge to the All Blacks tri nations supremacy in just over six weeks time.
Lest we forget, this was only the Chiefs second semi final appearance, by far the least of any New Zealand team. Only the Force and Cheetahs have featured in less top four appearances.
To put this into perspective, compare the reactions of the teams in their respective semi final showings.
For the Bulls, their fourth top four positioning since 2005, there was muted celebration after their remarkable comeback win against the Crusaders.
A quiet determination, they knew from experience that it would all count for nothing if the final was not won.
Whereas the Chiefs celebrated their triumph over the Hurricanes as if they had already won the title; their season was one of exceeded expectation many weeks earlier.
To reach the final was their championship.
For the Bulls, not only was the hoisting of a second title the minimum achievement. But one feels that there may be more titles to add to the trophy case in arguably Gauteng Provinces greatest sporting team.
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