bulls find form

HOLD IT! The Crusaders's Adam Whitelock is tackled by Cheetahs's Naas Olivier during their Super 14 match in Bloemfontein at the weekend. 25/04/09. ©  Gallo Images
HOLD IT! The Crusaders's Adam Whitelock is tackled by Cheetahs's Naas Olivier during their Super 14 match in Bloemfontein at the weekend. 25/04/09. © Gallo Images

Three unlikely wins by log stragglers - two of them South African franchises - have severely dented the Super 14 playoff dreams of three New Zealand teams in the past weekend's round of matches.

Three unlikely wins by log stragglers - two of them South African franchises - have severely dented the Super 14 playoff dreams of three New Zealand teams in the past weekend's round of matches.

And, another plus from a South African point of view, is that the Bulls, one of three local sides to win their matches, looked like real title contenders in dispatching log leaders the Chiefs.

On a weekend when only one of South Africa's four competitors lost, badly, the Australian onslaught on the Super 14 took another dip with their top side, Western Force, only in sixth place.

Defending champions Crusaders's 20-10 loss against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein has all but put paid to their aspirations of a successful title defence.

In Dunedin, the Highlanders's vague hopes of making a semi-final are now over with the first win there by the Stormers, who beat them 18-11.

And the Reds, also in a first in 14 years, won their match in Auckland 31-24 and, in the process, did the Bulls and the Sharks a huge favour.

A Blues win would have put them on 33 log points, third behind the Bulls on points difference and ahead of the Sharks (31). But they are now fifth on 30 points.

The lingering thoughts of the weekend, however, are the continued, and even increasingly good form of Bulls centre Wynand Olivier on attack and in defence; the lacklustre, undisciplined display by the Lions in their 55-14 thrashing by Western Force; the shuddering tackles by the Bulls's big prop Gurthro Steenkamp around the rucks and the guts shown by both Stormers and Cheetahs in their surprise but deserved wins.

The match of the weekend, from a quality and importance point of view, was at Loftus where the Bulls played probably their best rugby of the season.

There were, as captain Victor Matfield put it, a few "soft moments" and Chiefs's three tries came from those.

There was also some solid scrumming, good lineout play, turnovers won and a balanced approach to running and kicking.

Pierre Spies was devastating when he went on the run, mostly at fairly close quarters as he did not shirk the hard work.

The tactical kicking of Morne Steyn, in addition to some excellent place kicking for a faultless six from six record, was exemplary and contributed to the Chiefs spending 20percent of the time in their own 22.

Steenkamp was immense with his hits and Derick Kuun's two tries were just reward for his work rate.

In fact, there was little to fault from the Bulls except that they could not score a try in the second half to secure a bonus point - and, of course, their "soft moments." -Sapa

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