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Sharks and Bulls into final
The Super 14 final will be an all-South African affair for the first time.
Last Modified: 13 May 2007 10:19 GMT

Victor Matfield, left, and Bakkies Botha thank the Bulls home crowd after beating the Crusaders [AFP]

The Coastal Sharks will play the Northern Bulls in what will be a historic day in Durban on Saturday when South Africa host the Super 14 final for the first time with the winner sure to come from South Africa also for the first time.
The Sharks, who finished on top of the points table, are the only South African team to have competed in a final, having done so on two occasions against the Auckland Blues and ACT Brumbies respectively, but lost both matches.

The Bulls finished second on the Super 14 table and beat the Canterbury Crusaders 27-12 in a try-less semi-final with flyhalf Derick Hougaard scoring all 27 of the home side's points with eight penalties and a drop-goal.

The Sharks secured a home final by beating a gallant Blues outfit 34-18 in Durban, and owe their victory to the boot of Percy Montgomery and tries by Johann Muller, Butch James and Waylon Murray.

Heyneke Meyer, Bulls coach, was full of praise after his team managed to deny the Crusaders a try at a packed Loftus Versfeld, with the only other time the defending champions were unable to score a try this season being against the Lions at Ellis Park when the visitors went down 9-3.

"It was a big effort from my guys to keep the Crusaders out for 80 minutes, our defensive team need all the credit," said Meyer.

"It was a special effort."

Hougaard hailed

Meyer was understandably delighted with the performance of Hougaard, who has been overlooked by the South African selectors for the coming international season.

"It was a world-class performance from Derick," said Meyer. 

In the other dressing room, Crusaders coach Robbie Deans felt for the first time what it is like to lose in a semi-final.

"The Bulls are playing great rugby at the moment," said Deans.

"They're particularly strong in defence, but they're also using plenty of initiative in attack.

"With the momentum they've built up over the last few weeks they're going to be very dangerous in the final, but the Sharks will have the home ground advantage behind them."

Sharks comeback

The Sharks' Waylon Murray, right, scores a try
against the Blues in the semi [GALLO/GETTY]

The Sharks' victory over the Aucklanders was the second for the South African team this season after Dick Muir's men also triumphed in New Zealand in the earlier rounds of competition.

"We've worked really hard in the last few seasons and, having ground out this win over the Blues, we're all feeling fantastic," said Muir.

"The final's going to be a new challenge for all of us, but we're looking forward to it.

"I'm just really proud of the way my guys fought back after falling behind the Blues in the early part of the second half," the Sharks coach added.

"They really showed a lot of character to come back like that."

Great final

Johann Muller, Sharks lock, who was named man of the match in the semi-final, said he could not wait to take on the Bulls in the decider.

"All the guys have put in a tremendous amount of hard work in the last year or so, and it's now finally paying off. It's going to be a great final," Muller said.

Blues boss David Nucifora was very complimentary to the Sharks.

"It was fast, physical rugby generally a great game, but we didn't take the odd chance that came our way and the Sharks did," said Nucifora.

"They certainly deserve their place in the final."

Source:
Agencies
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