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Bulls clinch semifinal spot

Published: 6:03AM Sunday May 14, 2006 Source: Reuters

The Bulls produced a stellar performance to claim an unlikely Super 14 semi-final place by beating the Stormers 43-10 at Newlands on Sunday.

They will meet the Canterbury Crusaders, the defending champions, in a semi-final in Christchurch next weekend.

Going into the match, the Bulls needed to beat their fellow South African rivals by at least 32 points while earning a bonus point for scoring four tries to usurp the Sharks in fourth place in the standings.

A controversial try in the 63rd minute by wing Bryan Habana, his second in the match, converted by flyhalf Morne Steyn put the visitors 33 points ahead.

Habana chased a kick from lock Victor Matfield and beat the defence to the ball. Television replays seemed inconclusive as to whether he legally grounded the ball, but the try was awarded and as it turned out it was the last scoring move of the game. coach Heyneke Meyer said.

"I feel very sorry for the Sharks to be eliminated this way, they must be shattered," Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer said.

"I'm hoping that in the future there will be more than one South African team in the semis.

"It's always tough to fly all the way to New Zealand for a semi, but I think we have a chance of doing well."

The visitors made sure of the result with a brilliant 15-minute burst in which they scored four tries to take a 26-3 lead at halftime.

The match turned their way when centre Wynand Olivier burst through the weak tackle of De Wet Barry to score under the crossbar in the 17th minute.

Nine minutes later Habana smashed flank Luke Watson to the ground and dislodged the ball, which was hacked ahead for Habana to collect and score unopposed.

On the half hour Bulls centre JP Nel benefited from a poor midfield pass which Stormers wing Jean de Villiers was unable to control. Nel swooped and beat the cover defence to the corner.

The Bulls secured their bonus point two minutes later when Steyn ducked under the swinging arm of Marius Joubert for a soft try.

De Villiers scored a superb solo try for the Stormers to briefly peg the Bulls back.

But a Steyn penalty and a Wessel Roux try, which Steyn converted, left the Bulls just six points off their target with 25 minutes to play and set the stage for Habana's clincher.