SA on the edge of a dream Super 14 derby final

The defending champions Bulls and the Stormers are both only a single match away from setting up a second all-South African final in the Super 14 competition – and what’s more, a traditional north-south derby between two great foes would make it a special match.


However, the Stormers still have to beat the Waratahs at Newlands and the Bulls have to defeat the Crusaders for a third time in a semi-final to progress.


This time they must do it at Orlando Stadium.


And while the two South African sides are the favourites to win Saturday’s matches, the reality is that a single interception, yellow card, handing error or slipped tackle can change the course of a match and decide the finalists.


It is eight year’s since any team has won a semi-final away from home.


Even more convincing for supporters of the Bulls and Stormers is that only four times in the semi-finals to date have the visitors come out tops. But that is history – and the Bulls in particular should be jittery.


They’re not at home and despite all the accolades for Orlando Stadium, which is an excellent venue, it is not Loftus.


Victor Matfield – on Saturday becoming only the third Bulls player to play 100 matches for this franchise – has had to work hard as captain this season.


Too often the Bulls have been behind at the break and too often they had to pull out all the stops to win from there. The usual shrug of the shoulders and “we knew we could to it” attitude from the Bulls camp will not work this time as they dare not lose.


As Matfield rightly said: “this is more like a test match. There is no second bite of the cherry.”


When in full cry, as they were in the second half against the Sharks three weeks ago, the Bulls are imperious. It would be wonderful if they could maintain that focus for 80 minutes on Saturday.


The Crusaders looked vulnerable and inconsistent all season. It is ironic that it was against the Bulls two weeks ago that they turned their season around when they were unlucky to go down 40-35 at Loftus.


They were very good, and improved further on that performance as they outplayed the Brumbies in the last round last Friday. However, that win by the Crusaders was in chasing a bonus point and opening up all the stops.


The semi-final, with the big stakes they’re playing for and a tighter, better pack than the one fielded by the Brumbies, will be a different matter.


To win, the Bulls will probably play to their game plan of high kicks landing just outside the visitors’ 22; setting up first phases in opposition territory and grinding and driving from there. Don’t expect them to run too much – but if they do, don’t underestimate the potential of their backs.


The last time the Stormers played in a home semi-final was back in 1999 when they hosted the Highlanders at Newlands.


The hosts though suffered a 33-18 defeat at against their Highlanders opponents.


The Stormers also played in the semi-finals in 2004, losing 27-16 to the Crusaders in Christchurch. The Stormers have lost only one match at Newlands this season.


They have been outstanding at times and, at others, rather average. The downturn in the quality of their play virtually always followed a top-class performance. It is this focus of a side which has matured greatly and become quite competitive up front that will be under scrutiny on Saturday.


The Stormers have by far the best defence record in this year’s competition.


They have scored some good tries by both their forwards and backs. They do however remain vulnerable in the scrums and in committed rucks and also lack a noticeable game plan. The latter could be advantageous.


The Stormers are such a great all-round side that they can adapt to various opponents and play a different game themselves quite effectively.


They will be under scrutiny, however, to with

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