Bulls rewrite the record books

2009-06-02 00:00

Victor Matfield described Saturday night as “the best night of my life” — and that was coming from someone who is married, has a young daughter, captained the Bulls to the Super 14 title in Durban 2007 and played a pivotal role in the Springboks’ 2007 Rugby World Cup triumph.

Still, you knew where he was coming from. It was a night of extraordinary feats as the running of the Bulls produced a 61-17 Super 14 win over the Chiefs in the most one-sided final in the history of the competition.

It not only rewrote the history books, but it surely ensured that Zane Kirchner, Wynand Olivier and Morne Steyn will join Test certainties Bryan Habana, Fourie du Preez, Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw and Pierre Spies in the Springbok squad when it is announced tonight.

Not even a scriptwriter dressed in blue and wearing horns would have dared pen a plot which saw the rampant Bulls touch such dizzy heights.

The Bulls were certainly the favourites, but who would have dared predict that victory would be achieved so emphatically and stylishly?

Suddenly the Bulls, who traditionally keep to the straight and narrow, adopting a conservative, forward-orientated game based on territory, were playing with enough freedom and ambition to run in eight tries. And in a final nogal.

Before the game even their coach Frans Ludeke said it would be “tight, Test-match rugby.”

It will take days, even weeks, for the folk of Pretoria to come back to earth after an astonishing night. Some may never return.

The Bulls produced a dazzling display of South African rugby at its very best and the quality of their rugby will have provided the Springboks with a major boost ahead of the British Lions Test series.

It was a win based as much on aggressive defence as it was on positive, ball-in-the-hand attack and the Chiefs, short of experience and in an intimidating arena, disintegrated under the intense pressure.

Instead of booting away possession and playing for territory, the Bulls broadened their horizons and attacked the Chiefs with the pace and power of their running.

Shell-shocked Chiefs coach Ian Foster was clearly gutted as he attempted to come to terms with the 44-point victory margin.

”We’re hurt, I can’t deny that. But we will learn from this and the intensity that it needs to play in finals like this.”

“Clearly, we didn’t expect a runaway victory when we came here and we got beaten by a very good team,” Foster said.

“They took opportunities early and we got behind, and then we had to try to play catch-up rugby against a very experienced side. The Bulls intensity at the breakdown was unbelievable.”

Foster did find some comfort in his team’s refusal to accept a damage control approach when the game was clearly lost.

“ I’m still proud that we kept trying to play and close the deficit,” he said. “ The boys will get over this in time. But they know they were beaten by an incredibly talented side in this final.”

Significantly, the Bulls had to make many more tackles than the Chiefs who, to their credit, kept running at them. But, because of the pressure, the New Zealanders forced passes and two intercept tries, and a host of turnovers, were the result.

The man-of-the-match award went to blond centre Wynand Olivier and he enjoyed an excellent final quarter, but it was composed Bok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez who pulled the strings throughout the final and turned the match in the space of minutes as he scored the opening two tries and fashioned the third for Bryan Habana with a neat grubber. Du Preez, with his slick, astute distribution also provided his halfback partner Morne Steyn with a comfortable ride and the flyhalf was again in sublime form.

The victory was so emphatic that coach Ludeke was able to clear his bench in the final quarter and provide the whole squad with a taste of a remarkable evening. Now that is just not supposed to happen in a final.

It will be a Blue Monday in Pretoria this morning and the manne will still be marching … but with one heck of a hangover after the best weekend of their lives.

See match report on page 18.

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