Sunday, May 30, 2010


By Gavin Rich

Both teams were unanimous after Saturday’s Super 14 final in Soweto that the side that won it did so because they had the greater experience of the bigger occasion.

The Bulls beat the Stormers 25-17, but it was their composure in the first half hour, when they took a 16-0 lead, that effectively won them a final that was played in an amazing, noisy atmosphere in front of 40 000 spectators at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

“I do think our experience of finals helped us,” said victorious skipper Victor Matfield, who joins Crusaders captains Richie McCaw and Reuben Thorne in a group that have won the title three times as captain.
“You could feel it this week. For a team that is used to doing well and has a good record in knockout matches, the semifinal week is often the toughest, the most difficult. You get the feeling that you just need to get through the semi and then the week building up to the final will take care of itself.

“We have been through it before so we knew what it was about. I felt when we were on the way to the stadium on the bus that we were very calm and it made me confident we would win.”

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee praised the Bulls’ composure and said it was an area where his own team was found wanting in the first half, which was when this game was won and lost.
“They are an excellent team and they apply an enormous amount of pressure. They are deserved champions,” said Coetzee.

“We knew the Bulls’ high pressure game was coming, we knew they would attack us with their kiking game, but knowing something is coming and being able to stop it is another thing. I felt we weren’t as composed on the day as the Bulls were. We have grown a great deal this season, and I am sure we will be back to challenge and hopefully take the next step in 2011.
“But we are not quite there yet, this team is still growing, and this match showed that.”
The Stormers needed to bring their A game if they were going to steal away the Super 14 title from the magnificent Bulls, but it was the champions who stepped up when it mattered most.

There is no team in the world better at applying the pressure than the Bulls are. As the Stormers return home licking their wounds on Sunday, perhaps they can take a look at their opponents from the Soweto final and use them as a cue for what they themselves need to do if they are to go one better by winning this competition next year.
Where the Bulls were clinical and unflustered, the Stormers were overly anxious and were prone to mistakes. It did though start for the Bulls where it almost always does start in a final – in the forwards.

“I thought our front-row was magnificent tonight, we put a lot of pressure on in the scrums,” said Matfield.
The lineouts were fairly even through the match, maybe even slightly shaded by the Stormers, but the Cape team did not help themselves by making mistakes early in the game, where they in turn were not helped by the period Andries Bekker spent off the field having a cut attended to.

The Stormers appeared to be expecting the first quarter to be all about aerial ping-pong, and perhaps that is why they sometimes had three loose-forwards back in expectation of downfield kicks. It wasn’t a problem for the Bulls, who just saw that as an opportunity to run it, and it was the reason why the Stormers defensive line suddenly looked vulnerable.
“We don’t worry much about what the opposition might do. The Stormers could have put 10 guys back and it would not have put us off, we concentrate on what we need to do,” said Matfield.

Was this a case of the Stormers paying the price for fielding three players in the back three who are challenged for height? Perhaps it was, and it may be one of the things that needs to be looked at ahead of next year. You can play one or two small playes in the back three, but you struggle when all the players there lack meat.

Whatever the reasons, however, it left the normally impeccable Stormers defensive system looking like it had holes in it, and maybe this is an area where the Bulls took their cue from the Sharks, who inflicted a defeat on the Stormers three weeks ago.
In that game the Stormers looked vulnerable when their opponents ran hard and direct at them down the middle, and among the unforced errors that the Stormers made in the first quarter were a couple of missed tackles that allowed the Bulls to get momentum.
The Stormers were not happy with the refereeing of Craig Joubert, and they had every right to be frustrated with the way he officiated the breakdowns. In the first half it killed the Stormers, as the Bulls kept preventing the Stormers from placing the ball and Joubert did nothing about it.

It was different from the way Joubert has reffed the breakdown the rest of the season, and perhaps this was an occasion where the Stormers’ fine attention to detail backfired on them. They do an extensive study on all referees before each game, and they would not have expected Joubert to blow the breakdown like he did yesterday.

“Yes, I was unhappy about it to be honest, otherwise I would have kept my mouth and not complained like I did on the field,” said disappointed Stormers captain Schalk Burger when he was asked about it afterwards.

Joubert’s refereeing did play a big role in keeping the Stormers on the back foot and preventing them from getting their required momentum, and you have to wonder at the SANZAR decision not to give this important match to the world’s best referee, Jonathan Kaplan.
“In the rest of the season Jourbert has given the advantage to the attacking side and during the season he gave three times as many penalties at the breakdown than Kaplan and Mark Lawrence did, but today he went the other way,” said Coetzee.
But there was no denying the Bulls were the better side on the day. All season the Bulls have given the impression they have drifted in and out of games, but when they do apply pressure they make it tell.

Swoosh0018's  Moe Cassim was on the scene and sent these pics via Blackberry. He said the experience,the transport,the atmosphere was incredible

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