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Bulls claim other home semi-final to cap off a South African double

Photosport

Sunday, May 6, 2007    Sportal.co.nz    Photosport

The Bulls went into the game needing a win to claim a top four spot ahead of the Brumbies, who had scored a bonus-point win over the Highlanders in Dunedin.

But they did much more than anyone could every expect and eclipsed the 72 points needed for a points differential advantage over the Crusaders to finish the regular season in the top two and claim a vital home final for next week's playoff match with the Christchurch team.

The Bulls ran in 13 tries to none in the most dominant display of Rebel Sport Super rugby ever seen and smashed the previous highest ever winning margin, when the Crusaders walloped the Waratahs 96-19 in 2002.

The Bulls' win, coupled with the bonus-point victory earlier in the night to the Durban-based Sharks, means that South African teams will host both the semi-finals for the first time in competition rugby history.

The Sharks will play the Blues at Absa Stadium in Durban, while the Bulls take on the Crusaders at Loftus.

The Reds opened the scoring in the second minute of the match with a long-range penalty to fullback Clinton Schifcofske, but from there it was all Bulls.

The home side hit back immediately with their first foray into Reds' territory. The ball was spun wide for Springboks winger Bryan Habana to cross in the corner. First five-eighths Derrick Hougaard converted from wide out to make it 7-3.

Habana had his second just a few minutes later when the Bulls' swarming defence forced a turnover ball. Habana picked up the ball just outside the Reds' 22m and raced away for the try. Hougaard added the extras for a 14-3 lead after just seven minutes.

The Reds tried valiantly to put together phase ball but the Bulls defence seemed to be everywhere as it blunted every Reds attack, while the South Africans looked dangerous every time they got the ball.

Hougaard kicked a penalty for incorrect binding in the scrum before flanker Pierre Spies crashed over for the home team's third try in the minute 17th minute.

Hooker Gary Botha ran in the Bulls' fourth try after another successfully attacking raid before flanker Wikus van Heerden grabbed a five-pointer when the Bulls forward pack rolled a maul over the line. Hougaard converted both tries for the Bulls to hold a comprehensive 38-3 lead at half-time.

The rout continued in the second half when centre Wynand Olivier raced through a gap to touch down in the 48th minute. Hougaard made it seven from seven to take the score to 45-3.

Big No 8 Pierre Spies scored just after the 50 minute mark when he ran over from close to the line after another period of sustained attack. Hougaard missed the conversion to leave the score at 50-3.

With the game in the bag and third spot on the ladder seemingly wrapped up Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer engineered some changes to his side. But it didn't slow down the home team's attack.

Spies had his double when he crashed over in the 58th minute again from a few metres out from the Reds line.

To make matters worse for the Reds, lock James Horwill was sin-binned for a late tackle on Bulls wing Akona Ndgunane on the hour mark.

Just a minute later, Van Heerden had his second when the Bulls forwards again dominated their opponents with maul ball in the Reds' red-zone. Hougaard converted to make it 64-3.

Fourie du Preez, who started the game from the bench, took a quick tap 10m out from the Reds line and then dived over for a try of his own. It was converted for a 71-3 scoreline.

Teenage replacement flanker Derick Kuun crashed over for his first Rebel Sport Super 14 try to give the Bulls their magic 72-point differential and catapult the team into the second spot on the table. Hougaard kicked the conversion for a massive 78-3 lead with nine minutes to play.

Kuun added another just before full-time and fullback Jaco van der Westhuyzen scored an amazing kick-and-chase try after the final siren to bring up 90 points. Morne Steyn got on the scoreboard with his conversion.

Bulls 92 (Habana, Van Heerden, Spies, Kuun 2 tries, Wannenburg, Botha, Olivier, Du Preez 1 try, Hougaard 11 con, 1 pen, Steyn 1 con) Reds 3 (Schifcofske 1 pen).
HT: Bulls 38-3