Super South African Final Set for Orlando Stadium, Soweto
The Bulls and Stormers set up a dream South African Super 14 final to take place at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Saturday
Both the Bulls and Stormers based their semifinal victories with their defense. The Bulls exhibited a more balanced approach between attack and defense during their 39-24 victory over the Crusaders, whilst the Stormers defended like Trojans for 80 minutes in suffocating the Waratahs during their 25-6 victory at Newlands.
Moving to Orlando Stadium in Soweto turned out to be a momentous occasion for the Bulls! The home crowd support was excellent and had the Soweto flavour as the vuvuzelas were out in full force! It was great to see the stadium full of blue, mixed races in the crowd and plenty of dignitaries on hand for the match.
Many in Australia and New Zealand had predicted a Crusaders victory as they believed the Bulls would have lost momentum from resting players in the previous match. However it was the Bulls who started stronger.
I believed that for the Crusaders to win, they had to start well as they were always going to fade due to the travelling and altitude.
The Bulls were well rested, and prepared for this and their defence was strong, a Deon Stegmann special led to a turnover and the Bulls were clinical in taking the ball through the phases before the pace and power of Pierre Spies finished the job.
Danie Rossouw scored a legitimate try soon after, but the TMO ruled he had lost the ball.
Richie McCaw scored for the Crusaders soon after, but the Bulls weren't perturbed. They spotted the weakness of the Crusaders under the high ball, and Zane Kirchner followed his kick perfectly to score the Bulls second and open a handy lead that was never reigned in to put the Bulls under any real pressure.
Two weeks ago the Crusaders believed they had the blueprint to beat the Bulls, but they were one dimensional. Their tactic to go wide was met with resolute defense, and when they failed to cross the advantage line they couldn't get any momentum. They also lacked the ability to vary their play and produce a plan B.
The Bulls had to do a lot of defending after the opening stages, helped largely by what I thought was a poor performance from ref Stu Dickinson. He was inconsistent which led to Victor Matfield being frustrated with the continual calls going against his side. However with all their ball and field position the Crusaders couldn't make it count.
A try in the second half to Zac Guildford was well executed as Zane Kirchner was found flat footed after Dewald Potgieter missed the cover tackle. However the Bulls kept on applying the pressure.
As we've so often seen in the past, Fourie du Preez is a game breaker. His vision to see the space down the short side, and the clinical execution for the match sealing try was brilliant.
One aspect of the Bulls game that worked well was the high kicks which were followed up with a committed chase.
After du Preez's try it was just a matter of winding the clock down and getting ready for next week's final! The Bulls equalled their record winning margin against the Crusaders and have now beaten them in three semifinals!
The Stormers showed how far they have come as a team as the weight of public expectation was no hindrance as the clinically outplayed the Waratahs to move into their first super rugby final.
The match was very similar to their round robin encounter in week 2, with strong defences dominating the match. The Stormers only concede an average of 1 try, and 10 points per match at home this season, and the Waratahs could find no way to penetrate it. All they had to show for their efforts were a lone penalty and a drop goal.
For the Waratahs to have won this game, they needed to play a high risk game, and chance their arm. To lose by 19 points without even firing a shot shows they suffer from the same disease many of the South African sides have, and that is trying no to lose.
The Stormers (and Bulls) have shown that to win, requires enormous self-belief and the confidence to go for the win. Whereas that inhibited Stormers sides in the past, this side was able to enjoy the occasion in front of their home fans because they believed they would win.
A large part of their success comes in knowing how they want to play. They have absolute faith in each other on defence, and that is why they've conceded so few points. It also requires the commitment of each individual to make their tackles and boy do they make them count.
Juan de Jongh provided the "x" factor and moment of brilliance to swing the match, and from there it was back to the game plan and strangling the Waratahs.
Other than de Jongh's superb solo effort, the Stormers victory was built on teamwork. As individuals each player did his just and that made the collective effort effective.
They now face the Bulls in their first final. Whilst their defence is strong, it remains to be seen if they can score enough points in a pressure environment against a quality side.
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