The Vodacom Bulls missed out on a fourth Vodacom Super Rugby final in seven years when they were beaten in the second tense semi-final by a spirited Brumbies team in Pretoria on Saturday evening.
As a result, the Brumbies will now travel to Hamilton to face the defending champion Chiefs in the 2013 Final. Both teams have won the title before – the Chiefs last year and the Brumbies in 2001 and 2004.
The Chiefs won hosting rights for the Final when they beat the heavily-favoured Crusaders by 20-19 in a nail-biter at the Waikato Stadium on Saturday morning (SA time). The defending champions fought back brilliantly in the second half after they were behind by 3-9 at the break.
However, Winning their third title in Hamilton next week will take a mammoth effort from White’s team – their victory at Loftus was only the seventh time in 59 play-offs a team could win any knock-out encounter on foreign soil.
It happened once in 17 Finals when the Crusaders beat the Brumbies in 2000 and six times in 36 semi-finals (The Sharks beat Reds in 1996, Crusaders beat Reds in 1999, Highlanders beat DHL Stormers in 1999, Crusaders beat DHL Stormers in 2011 and Brumbies beat Vodacom Bulls in 2013) and once in six qualifiers (The Sharks beat Reds in 2012).
Vodacom Super Rugby Final:
Chiefs v Brumbies
Date: Saturday, 3 August, 2013
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Waikato
SA kick-off time: 09h35
Vodacom Bulls 23 (11) Brumbies 26 (16)
The Brumbies progressed to their sixth Vodacom Super Rugby Final when they beat the Vodacom Bulls by 26-23 thanks to a late try by Tevita Kuridrani to leave the Loftus Versfeld crowd stunned on Saturday evening.
It was a heart breaking moment for the Vodacom Bulls and their fans as they lost their first home game of the season … when it mattered most. It was also the first time in six home play-off matches that the team from Pretoria could not finish as victors.
Kuridrani’s try came after Vodacom Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter had turned down three kickable penalties during a period of sustained pressure by the hosts.
The home team could not score from any of the resulting line-outs though, but when Morné Steyn eventually kicked his sixth penalty goal of the match, the Vodacom Bulls were back in their own half. They could not get away and when the Brumbies launched one final assault on the try-line, a defensive lapse by the three-time champions from Pretoria allowed Kuridrani in for probably the most important try of his career.
Apart from Kuridrani’s five-pointer, there were only two other tries in the match. Brumbies fullback Jesse Mogg went over in the 11th minute after Henry Speight crashed through three attempted tackles before putting Mogg away.
Five minutes later JJ Engelbrecht finished a good attacking move when he went over in the corner for the Vodacom Bulls’ only try despite Speight’s defensive efforts.
What transpired in the final 15 minutes was not the main reason the Vodacom Bulls lost though. Their problems started in the first half, where their set-piece was under pressure. The Brumbies had the better start to the match and the home team were made to play catch-up.
They did just that in the second half and finally took the lead in the 60th minute when Steyn slotted his fifth penalty goal, but the Vodacom Bulls could not keep it up until the end of the match.
Credit though to former Springbok coach Jake White’s Brumbies team – they played the tactical game better, defended like Trojans, turned over possession at crucial times and took the points when they were on offer. The team from Canberra will now contest the final for the first time since 2004.
Vodacom Bulls – Try: JJ Engelbrecht. Penalty goals: Morné Steyn (6).
Brumbies – Tries: Jesse Mogg, Tevita Kuridrani. Conversions: Christian Lealiifano (2). Penalty goals: Lealiifano (4).
Other result – Semi-finals:
Chiefs 20 (3) Crusaders 19 (9)
Chiefs – Tries: Lelia Masaga, Aaron Cruden. Conversions: Cruden (2). Penalty goals: Cruden (2).
Crusaders – Try: Israel Dagg. Conversion: Dan Carter. Penalty goals: Carter (4).
First play-off match:
The MTN Lions beat the Southern Kings in the first of two play-off matches in Port Elizabeth on Friday evening.
The victory by 26-19 meant the team from Johannesburg bagged four log points to the one by the Kings as they head to Ellis Park for the second and final play-off on Saturday.
Southern Kings 19 (14) MTN Lions 26 (19)
Southern Kings – Tries: Marcello Sampson, Steven Sykes. Penalty goals: Demetri Catrakilis (3).
MTN Lions – Tries: Stokkies Hanekom (2). Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalty goals: Jantjies (4).