The measure of the Bulls’ 25-17 win over the Stormers in this weekend’s Super 14 Final at the Orlando Stadium is that arguably not a single one of their forwards would find a place in a combined side if one were to be selected on their final performances.
The Bulls pack played out of their skins and emphasised the Stormers tight five, for all their improvement this season, still have a long way to go – and that goes for the scrums in particular, where they simply could not stand up to the Bulls pressure, and for their penchant to line up among the backs when the hard graft of the Bulls was left to two or three players to counter.
The way in which referee Craig Joubert was criticised by Stormers captain Schalk Burger and coach Allister Coetzee after the match smacked of sour grapes by a team that was hit by the physicality of the Bulls in the first 30 or so minutes to an extent they never really recovered.
It was a game in which the Bulls halfbacks Morné Steyn and Fourie du Preez judged their high kicks to a tee and smothered the Stormers expansive danger with their tactical acumen and territorial dominance.
“Fourie was brilliant with his tactical kicking,” Bulls captain Victor Matfield said afterwards.
He was right.
The man who must be the best scrumhalf this country has ever produced, played an immense role in the victory in which his vision and tactics used the Bulls’ dominance in possession to good effect.
The Bulls became only the third side to win back-to-back Super titles.
The Blues achieved it in the first two years of the competition, and Crusaders have done so twice – including a hat-trick. Matfield, with Todd Blackadder and Richie McCaw of the Crusaders, have now skippered a side to the most Super titles.
This was also the Bulls’ third title in four years – and their 20th successive win at home – for there can be no doubt the Orlando Stadium has become home to the Bulls and their fans who have embraced the stadium and Soweto over the past two weekends.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke had high praise for the captaincy of Matfield who, it must be added, was immense in covering the field throughout and pulling off tackles seldom seen from a lock.
Immense in performance in especially the two play-offs, Ludeke lauded Matfield as the “heart beat” of the team together with Du Preez. His summing up of situations and decision-making as captain are the factors that Ludeke singled out.
Matfield again lauded Ludeke for his guidance in winning his second Super 14 title as coach – and emphasised the importance of resting his whole team two weeks ago in the league match against the Stormers the Cape side won 38-10 against the Bulls’ second-stringers at Newlands.
Matfield, when asked whether the Bulls could repeat the title win next year, was adamant they could.
“It will be harder. The more successful a side becomes, the more is the pressure. But we definitely can do it again,” he said.
The Bulls strength as a team, he said, will also continue for years to come.
He pointed out the successes of the younger players who have secured the Vodacom Cup title this year and of whom many have been phased in to the rigours of Super 14 rugby.
Heyneke Meyer, who started with the nucleus of the present team in 2001 and the high performance manager of the Bulls Ian Schwartz, are continually working on the identification of talent to keep the Bulls at the top and were specifically mentioned by Matfield in this regard.
Meyer’s nucleus of 2001 has now won five Currie Curie Cups, two Vodacom Cups and three Super 14 titles.
It was the last match in the Super 14 competition, with the name and format changing next year when 15 teams will contest the honours as SANZAR’s best.
Article Courtesy of Rugby 365Tweet