At 37 years old, Morne Steyn kicked a winning penalty to secure South Africa’s back-to-back victory over the British Irish Lions. Steyn broke Lions…
The defending champion Bulls will meet the Stormers in an all-South African final of rugby’s Super 14 after Saturday’s semi-finals saw the elimination of New Zealand and Australia’s last title hopes.
The Stormers outclassed the NSW Waratahs 25-6 in Cape Town after the Bulls had beaten the Crusaders 39-24 in the earlier semi-final in Soweto.
The final will be played at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, the venue for the Bulls’ historic clash with the Crusaders.
It was the first major rugby union match staged in the black township near Johannesburg and Nobel peace prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu called it the greatest development in the sport since the Springboks 1995 World Cup victory.
With Pretoria fortress Loftus Versfeld unavailable as it is being readied for the 2010 World Cup next month, the titleholders opted for Soweto and a capacity 40,000 crowd cheered them to glory after leading 23-10 at halftime.
There were also milestones for winning captain and lock Victor Matfield, who completed 100 Super appearances, and flyhalf-cum-scoring machine Morne Steyn raised his season tally to a record 243 points.
“This ranks among the most memorable experiences of my rugby career – coming to Soweto, reaching 100 appearances and defeating a great Crusaders team,” said Springbok and Bulls legend Matfield.
“We realised that starting slowly and giving our opponents a 15-point lead would be suicidal and so we set out to take control from the kick-off and it worked.
“Resting our top players last weekend also worked in our favour.”
Crusaders skipper and flanker Richie McCaw did not offer the long trip from Christchurch as an excuse and said his side made too many mistakes in the southern hemisphere championship clash.
“This is a very good Bulls team and we gave them a head start,” Mccaw said.
“We came back strongly in the second half but were not clinical enough when we had them under pressure – that has been the story of our season.”
Traditional slow starters, the South Africans were quick to apply pressure on the New Zealanders and No.8 Pierre Spies stormed over the tryline just 126 seconds into the game for a team seeking a third title in four years.
Steyn converted and added a penalty before seven-time holders Crusaders hit back with a try from McCaw off a driving maul that flyhalf Dan Carter converted.
But there was no stopping a Bulls team lucky to beat the Canterbury outfit in Pretoria two weeks ago and fullback Zane Kirchner touched down after an awkward bounce eluded numerous players.
Another conversion and another penalty from Steyn lifted Bulls to a 20-7 advantage and after Carter landed his only penalty of the match, the Bulls pivot planted the ball between the posts from well inside his own half.
The Crusaders needed to score first in the second half and they did in the 45th minute when slick handling and a missed Dewald Potgieter tackle allowed wing Sean Maitland to go over far out with Carter adding the conversion.
A Steyn penalty steadied Bulls nerves and the turning point came after 63 minutes when halfback Fourie du Preez made a blindside break from a scrum, brushed off a Kieran Read tackle and dived over for Steyn to convert.
The red-and-grey clad visitors were allowing the game slip away from them as they trailed 33-17 and Steyn added another couple of penalties before lock Sam Whitelock snatched a consolation try that Carter converted.