Steyn vs Grant battle could decide Super14

The goal-kicking form of rival fly-halves Morne Steyn of the Bulls and Peter Grant of the Stormers could determine the destiny of the Super 14 trophy on Saturday.

Steyn struck 24 points with his boot last weekend as the defending champions comfortably overcame seven-time winners the Crusaders in their new Soweto township home of Orlando Stadium.

Grant was equally deadly with his boot at Newlands in Cape Town, kicking 20 points to send the Waratahs packing in the other southern hemisphere championship semi-final.

Steyn has scored 243 points – five tries, 37 conversions, 45 penalties, three drop goals – this year to surpass the 221-point benchmark set by Crusaders and All Blacks star Dan Carter four seasons ago.

That makes him a runaway leader among the leading 2010 scorers and Grant lies sixth on 134 points derived from a solitary try, 18 conversions and 31 penalties.

The Bulls thrashed the Chiefs 61-17 for a record final winning margin last year, but such a gap is unimaginable in the last 14-franchise Super final with Melbourne Rebels coming on board next season.

A solitary point separated the victorious Bulls from Sharks three years ago in the only other all-South Africa final and an equally close result is on the cards with the team making fewest mistakes winning.

Steyn has become such a prolific scorer that his failure to steer a shot at goal between the posts triggers an eerie silence, and his range has extended to his own half as Crusaders discovered to their cost last week.

He missed just one of 10 shots at goal last weekend and is back to the form that catapulted him into the Springbok team that won a series against the British and Irish Lions and lifted the Tri-Nations title.

The Bulls fly-half lets his boot do the talking with no pre-match media boasts while Grant tried to play down the duel as Stormers tuned up for an initial final appearance.

“It is up to the forwards. Morne and I just play behind the packs so it all depends on the amount of ball we get from them,” Grant said after a midweek practice session.

A titanic forward battle looms between two Springbok-littered packs and no individual clash will carry more significance than the duel of Bulls captain Victor Matfield and Stormers Andries Bekker.

While Matfield is the acknowledged international master of the line-out, continuously winning the ball with an ease that comes from endless hours of training and studying videos, Bekker has had a dream season.

Like Matfield, he often gives the impression of being on stilts as he soars above friend and foe to tap the ball back to scrum-half Dewaldt Duvenage, who is keeping Springbok Ricky Januarie on the bench.

Matfield lauded Bekker this week: “Andries is probably the best number five lock in the world at the moment. There is no one close to him and he is an outstanding player.”

Behind the scrum, there will be a special air of expectation the first time 2007 World Rugby Player of the Year Bryan Habana comes face to face with Gerhard van den Heever, back in the Bulls line-up after a two-match ban.

Van den Heever was promoted this season after Habana changed his address from Pretoria to Cape Town and has crossed the line eight times, once less than leading Super 14 try scorers Joe Rokocoko and Drew Mitchell.

With 10 of 14 previous finals won by the home team, tradition is on the side of Bulls with a 10-38 loss to Stormers in Cape Town two weeks ago offering zero clues as the Pretoria franchise field a B team having sealed top spot.

Bulls are using Orlando Stadium, the apartheid-era home of South African football, as their Pretoria stadium Loftus Versfeld is being readied to host 2010 FIFA World Cup matches.

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