ONE BULL RULES

SYDNEY - South Africa's Bulls headed three New Zealand teams in qualifying for the Super 14 semi-finals after an extraordinary end to the season.

SYDNEY - South Africa's Bulls headed three New Zealand teams in qualifying for the Super 14 semi-finals after an extraordinary end to the season.

Bulls, champions two years ago, finished at the top of the standings by a single point after a nailbiting 27-26 win in Durban.

A loss would have seen them drop to third but by finishing top, Bulls earned the right to host a semifinal, and the final, should they make it to the latter.

Their semifinal opponent at Pretoria next Saturday will be Canterbury Crusaders after the defending champions snuck into fourth place with a last-gasp 15-13 win over Blues in Auckland.

Waikato Chiefs finished second after beating Australia's ACT Brumbies 10-7 at Hamilton to secure a semifinal against the Wellington Hurricanes next Friday.

Hurricanes beat Australia's Queensland Reds 37-28 at Brisbane to claim third place, providing them a fifth semifinal appearance in seven seasons.

Australia will be without a team in the semifinals after their best hope, New South Wales Waratahs, finished level with Crusaders but just missed out on percentages despite beating the Lions 38-33 in their last match.

Sharks needed to beat Bulls and claim a bonus point to sneak into the finals - they scored the four tries but failed to win therefore finished sixth.

Chiefs were given a torrid workout by the Brumbies. They led 7-0 just before halftime and Chiefs did not take the lead until 12 minutes from the end.

The Crusaders cut it even finer to keep alive their title defence, with Leon MacDonald potting a drop goal four minutes from fulltime to seal the win.

The Blues threatened to steal victory with a contentious late try from Auckland centre Isaia Toeava, but Crusaders showed why they are the most successful franchise in the competition's history working their way back to cooly slot over the winner.

Despite the final margin, Hurricanes were never in any real danger of losing against Queensland, with bustling centre Ma'a Nonu scoring two of their five tries.

Stormers finished the season on a high with a 28-22 win over fellow South Africans, Cheetahs.

- Reuter

X