Saturday, May 19, 2007

Rebel Sport Super 14 Grand Final Preview (on,347,2063,html/Rebel-Sport-Super-14-Grand-Final-Preview

Saturday May 19
Sharks v Bulls
At The ABSA Stadium, Durban, 3pm (1am, Sun May 20, NZ time)
Steve Walsh (hey check! there is a Kiwi in final!!!)

The Sharks are hoping it will be a case of third time lucky as they host the Bulls in the first ever all-South African Super rugby final. The Durbanites have reached the tournament decider twice previously, in 1996 and 2001, but lost out in away ties to the Blues and ACT Brumbies respectively. Last weekend’s 16-point rout of the Blues represented the Sharks’ seventh win from eight in Durban this season, and their 12th success in 14 Super rugby ties at home in the last two years. Their first home win this year was achieved against Saturday’s opponents, with the Bulls falling 17-3 to a Sharks side that was spearheaded by two tries from exciting winger JP Pietersen. Although he was kept try-less last weekend in the semi-final, Pietersen still comfortably leads the way among the competition’s try-scorers, having scored 11 for the season, which includes four try-scoring doubles. Pietersen’s tally is four in advance of that gathered by the Bulls’ leading predator, Bryan Habana. This year’s success was the Sharks’ fifth from 12 ties against the Bulls in Super rugby. Five others have been lost, while the two teams slugged out draws in 1997 and 2000. The Bulls have twice successfully raided the Shark tank in Super rugby, winning 24-16 in 2003 and 23-17 two years later. It promises to be an anxious afternoon for Sharks assistant coach John Plumtree. He took Wellington to three NPC finals in four years back in New Zealand – and lost the lot! The Sharks have won all four contests against South African opposition so far this year, while the Bulls beat every other African team but the Sharks. The Bulls trek down to the Natal coast hoping to have Bok halfback Fourie du Preez back on deck for their maiden Super rugby final appearance. South Africa’s 2006 Player of the Year missed last weekend’s gripping 27-12 win over the Crusaders but is expected to return for the championship settling game. The Bulls have won four of seven on the road this year, and bring strong recent form to the contest, having won their last five. They’ve also conceded just one try – a last minute and largely irrelevant effort by defeated Blues skipper Troy Flavell – in their last 240 minutes of action.

Last meeting: Sharks 17, Bulls 3 at Durban

Recent Form –
Sharks: Beat Lions (home) 33-3, Beat Stormers (away) 36-10, Beat Blues SEMI-FINAL (home) 34-18
Bulls: Beat Blues (home) 40-19, Beat Queensland Reds (home) 92-3, Beat Crusaders SEMI-FINAL (home) 27-12

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