Hougaard kicks Bulls into Super Final

The Bulls will meet the Sharks in the 2007 Super 14 Final in Durban next Saturday, May 19, after they beat the Crusaders 27-12 in their try-less semi-final showdown in Pretoria on Saturday.

Bulls fly-half Derick Hougaard kicked eight penalties and a sweetly-struck drop-goal to put his team through to their first ever Super rugby Final and the first Final ever between two South African sides.

Looking back upon a semi-final whose content fell well short of its hype, one realises that it simply was not in the script for the champions to beat the Bulls on Saturday.

The vocal talents of one Steve Hofmeyr greeted the Bulls onto their stage, and they never let go of a physical ascendancy they attained early on.

Something which was showcased in this match was the changed game of rugby in 2007.

The Crusaders in their pursuit of a quicker game were never allowed quick ball, and rucks favoured the defender.

The state of rugby currently favours a team like the Bulls. They are hard and fiery upfront, and are disciplined enough to win a game on their opponents’ mistakes.

The pre-match build-up definitely did have an effect on the Bulls, who started the game somewhat tentatively.

The first line-out saw the Crusaders out-maul the Bulls and one wondered if the home side would be able to achieve that forward dominance so necessary for their success.

The Crusaders showed their hand early as Daniel Carter moved his line wide off the first phase as his side looked to run the Bulls off their feet.

That was never to materialise.

The Crusaders back three were simply awful, and Leon MacDonald had one of the worst games of his life and this was despite Carter’s best efforts, there simply was no precision, or incision out wide.

The Bulls got onto the score sheet first, after an attacking movement began after a refereeing blunder by Matt Goddard.

The Australian penalised the Crusaders for an early tackle on Victor Matfield after he had clearly handled the ball.

The Bulls surged upfield, and mauled over the tryline. The television official ruled the ball had not been grounded, and a Derick Hougaard penalty accrued. It was to be the first of eight.

The Bulls were to have another scoring opportunity midway through the half, when Pedrie Wannenburg stole a lineout from the back and went on a thirty metre surge, in what was to be only one of two line-breaks the entire game.

He fed Gary Botha, who lost it in an attempt to ground it.

The sides exchanged penalties throughout the half, as their differing patterns were evenly poised.

Carter demonstrated the menace of the New Zealanders when he broke off first phase ball in the thirtieth minute, but his players out wide demonstrated their lack of attacking power when they bungled the opportunity.

Nevertheless such play was keeping the Crusaders in touch.

It was 9-all going into half-time when the home side began to seize the initiative.

Two quick penalties, with the Bulls maul in focus, exemplified the drift of the game towards the home side. When they went in for the break it was 15-9.

The Crusaders came out of the break looking ready to begin to punch some holes in the Bulls’ defence, but slowly the Bulls machine gathered steam.

Mose Tuali’i, who was always prominent for the Crusaders, always ran hard, but just could never really gain momentum.

The Crusaders started to try mix it up-front, but the Bulls had already started turning the screws.

A couple of vital errors fielding kicks at the back by Caleb Ralph and Leon MacDonald suddenly saw the champions conceding key penalties which saw them falling away.

Heinie Adams was an able replacement for Fourie du Preez and the ever consistent Derick Hougaard were soon kicking turnover ball garnered by the scavenging Wikus van Heerden and Pedrie Wannenburg dow

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