During the lull that followed the blitz that all but won the game for the Bulls, the scoreboard mocked the visiting Chiefs with the irony of it all.
It read 24-7, a metaphor for what was unfolding on the field.
Simnikiwe Xabanisa writes for the Sunday Times that leading up to the game, it was agreed that the Chiefs needed to adjust their game plan to suit finals rugby, while the hosts didn’t have to tinker with anything.
With 22 minutes gone in the game, it was the team that played the same way 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that was home and hosed.
During that period, the Chiefs’ profligacy at the rucks and failure to deal with the up and under resulted in three converted Bulls tries by Fourie du Preez (two) and Bryan Habana.
And just to show them that they were headed for a similar fate as the Crusaders, flyhalf Morne Steyn popped over the drop goal that took the hosts’ tally to 24 points.
That was the essential difference in a game that promised the world but was as lopsided as the final score suggested.
And to think that Lelia Masaga put the Chiefs on the board first.
Just how did a game billed as a potential classic end up an anorak’s dream?
The answer is one side were experienced at this finals caper, the other simply overawed by being in their first title match.
The result was eight tries to two and the biggest-ever winning margin in a final.
The Bulls’ experience told in little ways. There was a power outage at the stadium that led to the game starting three minutes late and the Vodacom Bulls Babes not titillating the crowd as they usually do before the match.
Then the Bulls had to put up with the even more unusual sight of being welcomed onto the field with fireworks, as if they had already won the game.
These little things were potentially distracting, yet when the game started they immediately started doing the things they always do well.
The kicking out of hand was spot on, the chasing well-choreographed and the aggression at the breakdowns bordered on assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
With the Chiefs enjoying a slight advantage at the scrums, Bakkies Botha wrecked their lineout by stealing no fewer than three of their throw-ins in the first half alone.
And the defence, led by flanker Dewald Potgieter, had obviously studied the Chiefs’ moves in minute detail, because the hits were so jarring they stopped the visitors’ devastating offloading in the tackle.
By contrast, the Chiefs — who repeatedly took the breath away with the outrageous nature of their play this season — simply froze on the big stage.
The capacity crowd at Loftus Versfeld (52000) is apparently almost half the population of Hamilton — so it was perhaps understandable that they were a little distracted by the sea of blue at the stadium.
This was a team effort by the Bulls, and flanker Deon Stegmann epitomised this best. The youngster was replaced as early as the 20th minute of the game, yet by then he had effected the turnover that led to Habana’s first try and had pulled off a try-saving tackle on Chiefs centre Richard Kahui.
That said, there were simply outstanding efforts from Du Preez, Habana and Steyn.
The former was responsible for the Bulls’ first three tries, sparing Zane Kirchner’s blushes with a quick-tap and score for his first, scoring the second from an Aled de Malmanche turnover, and kicking the grubber that led to Habana’s first try.
Habana, derided as being past it at the beginning of the season, turned in a determined performance and showed that the British & Irish Lions will have their hands full.
Steyn, for the umpteenth time this season, did not fold under the pressure, kicking all his goals when it mattered and remaining calm while directing matters from flyhalf.
He also scored 19 points to be the top points scorer in the competition with 191.
The Bulls’ second Super 14 title was an acknowledgement of the golden age they are experiencing and a warning to the visiting Lions of just how much harder South Africa will be to beat this time around.
Bulls 61 —
Tries: Fourie du Preez (2), Bryan Habana (2), Victor Matfield, Wynand Olivier, Pierre Spies, Danie Rossouw
Conversions: Morne Steyn (5), Burton Francis
Penalties: Steyn (2) Drop goal: Steyn
Chiefs 17 —
Tries: Lelia Masaga, Mils Muliaina
Conversions: Stephen Donald (2)