Bulls, Sharks to host Super 14 semis

WELLINGTON - The Sharks and Bulls will host semifinals - the first playoff matches in South Africa in six years in Super 14 rugby - after sealing first and second places on Saturday with massive last-round wins.

WELLINGTON - The Sharks and Bulls will host semifinals - the first playoff matches in South Africa in six years in Super 14 rugby - after sealing first and second places on Saturday with massive last-round wins.

The Sharks beat the Stormers 36-10 to finish atop the Super 14 standings with a 10-win, 3-loss record, while the Bulls, needing to win by 72 points to clinch second place, crushed the hapless Queensland Reds by a record 92-3.

The Bulls will now play the defending champions, the Canterbury Crusaders, in the first semifinal at Pretoria on Friday. The Sharks host Auckland Blues in Durban on Saturday.

The Sharks finished the round-robin with 45 points while the Bulls, Crusaders and Blues were tied on 42. The Bulls sealed second place with a points differential of plus 165, the Crusaders were third at plus 147 and the Blues fourth at plus 120.

The Crusaders had seemed likely to host a semifinal, in spite of their 30-24 loss to the Waikato Chiefs on Friday - their second straight loss at the end of the round-robin - but the Bulls' massive win, by 13 tries to nil cost them home advantage.

The Bulls' 89-point margin was the largest in the competition's history, eclipsing the Crusaders' 96-19, 77-point win over the Waratahs in 2002.

The Sharks became the first South African team to top the Super 12 or Super 14 standings at the end of a regular season and South Africa has not had two teams in the tournament semifinals since 2001. It is the first time South Africa has hosted both semis.

The Sharks were also the last South African team to host a semifinal, beating the Cats 30-12 in 2001 before losing to the ACT Brumbies in the final at Canberra.

Five of seven matches in the final round had implications for the playoffs and it was the last, involving the Bulls, that had the decisive say on pairings and venues. - Sapa-AP

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