Match report: Hougaard boot Bulls into Super 14 final
May 12, 2007

The Bulls will take on the Sharks in an all-South African Super 14 Final next weekend after flyhalf Derrick Hougaard kicked them to a 27-12 victory over the Crusaders at Loftus.

Bulls playmaker Derick Hougaard booted six-time champions the Crusaders out of the Super 14 rugby title race today, landing nine goals in all, to set up a mouth-watering finale in Durban next week.

The Sharks, who finished first in the round-robin, will host the Bulls at the Absa Stadium.

Hougaard slotted eight penalties and a dropped goal in a flawless goalkicking exhibition as his Bulls team beat the defending champions 27-12 in one of the semifinals before a capacity 50,000 crowd at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

The Sharks beat the Blues 34-18 before a similar crowd in the other semifinal in Durban earlier to set up an all-south African final for the first time since the competition started in 1996.

The Bulls' victory was based on their solid defence and a powerful pack who maintained constant pressure on the Crusaders.

Even the normally stable Crusaders scrum was in trouble throughout the game, skidding first then exploding and disintegrating as their players struggled late in the game on the high veldt.

Though Australian referee Matt Goddard played a role in the Crusaders' demise, the Crusaders were their own enemy.

They popped up on the wrong side in the rucks and mauls and Hougaard punished them with his accurate boots. At other times they would isolate themselves and the big Bulls forwards would ram into the rucks and turn possession over.

Captain Richie McCaw was sinbinned in the 58th minute for pulling down the maul after being warned by Goddard.

It will be only the second time that a New Zealand team hasn't featured in the final. In 2001 the Brumbies hosted the Sharks in the final.

The Bulls, too, couldn't cross the Crusaders line today and it was clear both teams were willing to sacrifice penalties whenever their line was threatened.

For the Crusaders, Daniel Carter succeeded with four of his five penalty goal attempts.

The Bulls came close to scoring twice, with hooker Gary Botha missing the best chance in the 20th minute when he took a defender over the line but lost the ball. It followed a nice break through the middle by blindside flanker Wikus van Heerden after second phase play from a lineout.

The Crusaders, though behind 9-15 at halftime, were showing promising signs by stretching the Bulls' defence on both sides of the field and creating space for the backline. But that game soon fell away in the second half in the face of a strong defence that regrouped quickly each time it was tested.

Bulls (15) 27
Pen: Hougaard (8)
DG: Hougaard

Crusaders (9) 12
Pen: Carter (4)

Bulls: Johan Roets, Akhona Ndungane, JP Nel, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana, Derick Hougaard, Fourie du Preez/Heini Adams, Pierre Spies, Wikus van Heerden, Pedrie Wannenburg, Victor Matfield (captain), Danie Rossouw, Rayno Gerber, Gary Botha, Gurthro Steenkamp. Reserves: Jaco Engels, Danie Thiart, Bakkies Botha, Derick Kuun, Adams/ Nicholas Eyre, Morne Steyn, Jaco van der Westhuyzen

Crusaders: Leon MacDonald, Rico Gear, Casey Laulala, Aaron Mauger, Caleb Ralph, Daniel Carter, Kevin Senio, Mose Tuiali'i, Richie McCaw (captain), Reuben Thorne, Ross Filipo, Chris Jack, Campbell Johnstone, Corey Flynn, Ben Franks. Reserves: Ti'i Paulo, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Paterson, Kieran Read, Andrew Ellis, Stephen Brett, Johnny Leo'o

Referee: Matt Goddard (Australia)

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