crusaders crucified

SATURDAY was an historic day for South African rugby and the Bulls weren't going to disappoint their fans - old and new - by spoiling the party in Soweto.

SATURDAY was an historic day for South African rugby and the Bulls weren't going to disappoint their fans - old and new - by spoiling the party in Soweto.

In a clinical display of pressure rugby, the Bulls strangled the life out of the visiting Crusaders to run out a comfortable 39-24 winners and secure their second consecutive final next week against the Stormers.

The game was only two minutes old when Bulls No8 Pierre Spies split the visitors defence from 10 metres out to touch down next to the posts.

It was the Spies of old ... holding the ball in one hand, he fended off he opposition at will and gave his team the kind of start it needed.

With most of the side having a rest last week, the Bulls wanted to prove the decision taken by coach Frans Ludeke was the correct one, and what better way than displaying early dominance - at least on the scoreboard.

Whereas the Crusaders had the bulk of the ball, they went into the break dominating the game with 62 percent possession, they failed to convert it to points.

In fact it was Bulls flyhalf Morné Steyn who kept punishing the Crusaders as he slotted eight out of nine kicks at goal for a personal total of 21 points.

In a training run on Friday he was banging them over from all over the pitch ... a form which he carried over into the game.

Pressure was key and the Bulls applied it like a tourniquet. Hoisting a towering up-and-under from the halfway line, Zane Kirchener followed up beautifully to gather and score.

A Steyn conversion and another penalty and after only 20 minutes the Bulls were up 20-7.

The whole afternoon the Crusaders backline looked decidedly shaky under the high ball. And Steyn peppered them.

The turning point in the game came early in the second half when scrumhalf Fourie du Preez scampered down the left-hand touchline like a startled rabbit to score and break any hopes the Crusaders had of making it through to next week's final.

With the stadium echoing to strains of "Ole, Ole, Ole," and dignitaries such as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Danny Jordaan, Oregan Hoskins and Jerome Falcke looking on, the Crusaders made one final last-ditch effort, which was rewarded when 21-year-old lock Same Whitelock managed to score for a consolation try for the visitors.

l In Cape Town on Saturday night the Stormers rebelled against a courageous Waratahs side to earn the right to take on the Bulls at Orlando Stadium by winning the tie 25-6.

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