Bulls and Chiefs to collide in Super 14 finale
May 28, 2009
Richard Kahui has been named at centre for the Chiefs - and will be hoping to spark celebrations © Getty Images
The Bulls host the Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday with the southern hemisphere's top prize on offer - the Super 14 trophy and all the bragging rights that go with it. The Bulls are gunning for their second title in three seasons while the Chiefs have made the long trip from Waikato for their first final appearance.
With a sell-out crowd of 55,000 expected at Loftus the occasion will dwarf the debut of the British and Irish Lions in South Africa, with the tourists set to face a Royal XV in Rustenberg on Saturday.
For the New Zealanders the focus in the build-up was on the fitness of All Black centre Richard Kahui, whose calf strain looked set to rule him out of contention. Kahui missed the semi-final victory over the Hurricanes, but reported fit for training at the start of the week and was duly named in their starting lineup.
All Black wing Sitiveni Sivivatu was unavailable for selection after dislocating his shoulder, with utility Dwayne Sweeney filling his position after deputising for Kahui last weekend. Mils Muliaina leads the side, with Liam Messam making his 50th Super rugby appearance from the Chiefs back-row.
"The signs were always positive that Richard was going to be right. He travelled well and trained well, and we're delighted that he's come back in," Chiefs coach Ian Foster said as the team prepared to train in Pretoria. "Clearly Richard has a physical presence in the midfield, he's a quality player, he's a leader on and off the park for us, and an important part of our mix."
The home side had injury worries of their own over centre Wynand Olivier, whose hip injury ruled him out of their semi-final win over the Crusaders. Olivier came through a fitness test however and partners Jaco Pretorius in the centre with Morne Steyn, fresh from scoring a Super 14 record four drop-goals in the semi-final, starting at fly-half. Bryan Habana and Akona Ndungane will also be hoping to repeat their scoring feats of last weekend and start on the wings.
The powerful and hugely impressive Pierre Spies starts in the back-row alongside Deon Stegmann, while Victor Matfield captains the side form the second-row. Bakkies Botha, as always, is his partner in crime.
"It is a new game and anything can happen, but we know that we need to play for the full 80 minutes against a team such as the Chiefs," said Matfield. "What we have done in the round robin stage of the competition means nothing in a final, but we will definitely use that foundation on Saturday. We must have a great work ethic from the first to the last minute and grind out the right result.
"It is all about using and creating opportunities and absorbing the pressure that comes with a game like this."
Bulls: Zane Kirchner; Akona Ndungane, Jaco Pretorius, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana; Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez; Pierre Spies, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield (capt), Bakkies Botha, Werner Kruger, Derick Kuün, Gurthrö Steenkamp
Replacments: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Rayno Gerber, Danie Rossouw, Pedrie Wannenburg, Heini Adams, Burton Francis, Marius Delport
Chiefs: Mils Muliaina (capt); Lelia Masaga, Richard Kahui, Callum Bruce, Dwayne Sweeney; Stephen Donald, Toby Morland; Sione Lauaki, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam, Kevin O'Neill, Craig Clarke, James McGougan, Aled de Malmanche, Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: Hika Elliot, Joe Savage, Toby Lynn, Serge Lilo, David Bason, Mike Delany, Sosene Anesi.
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery
Monday Maul takes in retirement talk, England reshuffles, France's unfair advantage and Scotland's communication breakdown