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Bulls second-half surge secures play-offs spot


David Legge

Bjorn Basson of the Bulls scores his 10th try for the Bulls in 2012, equal with Andre Taylor from Hurricanes for the ...

Bjorn Basson of the Bulls scores his 10th try for the Bulls in 2012, equal with Andre Taylor from Hurricanes for the most in the Super Rugby season. Photo: Getty Images

PRETORIA: The Bulls clinched a place in the Super Rugby play-offs by dominating the second half to defeat fellow South Africans the Lions 37-20 at chilly Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The three-time title holders entered the final league-phase match in the southern hemisphere championship lying eighth, but the bonus-point win lifted them above the Sharks, Brumbies and Hurricanes.

Bulls now make the long journey to New Zealand for a showdown next weekend with seven-time champions the Crusaders while title holders Queensland Reds of Australia host the Sharks in the other play-off.

Table-toppers the Stormers and runners-up the Chiefs of receive byes into the semi-finals and will enjoy home advantage in Cape Town and Hamilton respectively.

Brumbies were the biggest losers of the weekend with a shock 30-16 home defeat by lowly Auckland Blues knocking them off top spot in the Australian conference and down to seventh on the combined table.

The team guided by 2007 World Cup-winning South Africa coach Jake White led the conference for most of the six-month league season only to be pipped at the post by the Reds, who finished first because they won more matches.

However, the Lions will be the saddest team after the final round as they not only finished bottom of the table with a meagre three wins from 16 outings, but are also facing exclusion from the Super 15 next year.

South African Rugby Union (SARU) officials promised early this year to give one of the five places reserved for the country in the 2013 Super 15 to the Eastern Cape-based Southern Kings at the expense of the team finishing last.

So unless the Lions merge with another franchise - they did combine with the Cheetahs from Bloemfontein in the past - they face a bleak future with the suspension of coach John Mitchell an additional problem.

The former New Zealand All Blacks handler was sidelined last month for allegedly verbally abusing several unnamed senior Lions, but the promised quick disciplinary action has not materialised.

Lions did win twice under caretaker coaches Johan Ackermann and former All Blacks fly-half Carlos Spencer and there was a hint of a surprise against the Bulls when they fought back to be level at 20-20 going into the break.

But the Bulls were more clinical after half-time and tries by scrum-half Francois Hougaard and flank Jacques Potgieter within eight minutes of the restart gave the home team a decisive 34-20 advantage.

The only other points came from a 65th-minute penalty converted by fly-half Morne Steyn, whose was back to his place-kicking best as he succeeded with four conversions and three penalties.

Wings Akona Ndungane and Bjorn Basson scored first-half tries for the Bulls while scrum-half Michael Bondesio and No 8 Josh Strauss dotted down for the Lions with fly-half Elton Jantjies converting both and kicking two penalties.

BULLS 37 (Bjorn Basson, Francois Hougaard, Akona Ndungane, Jacques Potgieter tries Morne Steyn 4 cons 3 pens) bt LIONS 20 (Michael Bondesio, Joshua Strauss tries Elton Jantjies 2 cons 2 pens) at Loftus Versfeld. Referee: Craig Joubert.


HuffPost Australia

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
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NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
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AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
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SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
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IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
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NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
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SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
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ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
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CAN 15vs ROM 17 Report Stats
FJI 47vs URU 15 Report Stats
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 64vs USA 0 Report Stats
NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
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NZL 47vs TGA 9 Report Stats
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SAM 33vs SCO 36 Report Stats
AUS 15vs WAL 6 Report Stats
ENG 60vs URU 3 Stats
ARG 64vs NAM 19 Report Stats
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 32vs ROM 22 Report Stats
FRA 9vs IRE 24 Report Stats
USA 18vs JPN 28 Report Stats
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Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 23vs WAL 19 Stats
NZL 62vs FRA 13 Report Stats
IRE 20vs ARG 43 Report Stats
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
AUS 35vs SCO 34 Stats
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SAF 18vs NZL 20 Stats
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ARG 15vs AUS 29 Stats
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SAF 24vs ARG 13 Stats
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NZL 34vs AUS 17 Stats
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 4 4 0 0 106 17
Wales 4 3 1 0 49 13
England 4 2 2 0 58 11
Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
Uruguay 4 0 4 0 -196 0
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 4 3 1 0 120 16
Scotland 4 3 1 0 43 14
Japan 4 3 1 0 -2 12
Samoa 4 1 3 0 -55 6
USA 4 0 4 0 -106 0
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 4 4 0 0 125 19
Argentina 4 3 1 0 109 15
Georgia 4 2 2 0 -70 8
Tonga 4 1 3 0 -60 6
Namibia 4 0 4 0 -104 1
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 4 4 0 0 99 18
France 4 3 1 0 57 14
Italy 4 2 2 0 -14 10
Romania 4 1 3 0 -69 4
Canada 4 0 4 0 -73 2
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