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Bulls second-half surge secures play-offs spot

Date

David Legge

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.

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.

AFP

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
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Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
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Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
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Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
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Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
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Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG 26 vs AUS 17 Report Stats
WAL 12 vs RSA 6 Report Stats
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