Bulls determination quelled the Crusaders' Rebel Sport Super 14 ambitions in a tryless encounter which saw the home team win 27-12 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
While the first semi-final between the Sharks and Blues was a thrilling encounter of typical Super rugby intensity, the contest on the high veldt was a much more defensive oriented encounter where forward power proved to be the preferred option. In that regard the bigger home pack called the tune to blunt the Crusaders' thrusts at the line. And as the Crusaders' desperation increased so did their mistakes, with forced passes failing to find their mark. It was the first semi-final the Crusaders have lost and will mean the first all-South Africa final in the tournament's history.
First five-eighths Derick Hougaard was the star for his side scoring all 27 points with eight penalty goals and a dropped goal. His rival Dan Carter landed four penalty goals for the Crusaders. The Crusaders also infringed slightly more often allowing Hougaard to land his goals. The Bulls blew a great scoring opportunity 19 minutes into the game after a fine break and run off the back of a lineout by loose forward Pedrie Wannenburg.
He carried the assault up to the Crusaders' line and passed to supporting hooker Gary Botha. However, as he hit the ground in the tackle he attempted to reach backwards over his head to place the ball, only to knock the ball on. Carter broke through the line soon after the restart following Hougaard's third penalty goal, to create space for second five-eighths Aaron Mauger. The Crusaders seemed unprepared for Carter's thrust and the move broke down, but not before the Bulls had infringed, allowing Carter to land his third goal.
The kick fest continued into the second half with Hougaard landing two and Carter responding with one as the score crept out to 21-12 to the home team. Victor Matfield was the expected force in the lineouts, but also demonstrated his other skills, including a kick chip from the halfback position which created a chance for Akona Ndungane but which ended in a penalty goal chance. Halfback Heini Adams was under pressure to perform in the absence of Fourie du Preez and lived up to expectations. Hooker Botha was a livewire in the loose exchanges for the Bulls while Hougaard supplemented his goal-kicking with some powerful line kicking.
The Crusaders suffered a blow when captain Richie McCaw was sin-binned for dragging down a maul 57 minutes into the game. From the resulting penalty, Hougaard landed his eighth goal. Desperation overtook the Crusaders who were solid in defence and it was only a Hougaard dropped goal from 40m that the home team could achieve.
Scorers: Bulls 27 (Derick Hougaard 8 pen, dropped goal) Crusaders 12 (Daniel Carter 4 pen). HT: 15-9