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Super 14 final an African affair

Bulls’ captain Victor Matfield said the Super 14 final in which his team beat the

Stormers 25-17 at Orlando Stadium on Saturday was “an awesome day for our country”.

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Matfield hailed the atmosphere at the stadium in South Africa’s biggest black township after the Bulls won the southern hemisphere championship for a third time in four years.

“It was a special day that everybody here will remember for a long time.”

Rugby union, long regarded as a white-dominated sport, went to the township because the Bulls’ home ground, Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, is being prepared for the World Cup which starts on June 11.

The move was widely hailed as a huge success, with white fans joining black Sowetans in township taverns, while the sound of vuvuzelas, the plastic trumpet commonly used by football supporters, made it difficult, according to Matfield, “to hear the lineout calls”.

“South Africa should be very proud,” said Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile.

“It was like all of South Africa coming together to enjoy themselves and the game of rugby. South Africa will never be the same again.”

Stofile said the last Super 14 final – Melbourne Rebels will be added next year in a new format – reminded him of the unifying effect of the 1995 Rugby World Cup final when South Africans of all

races cheered the Springboks to victory against the New Zealand All Blacks.

“Sport in this country is playing a major role,” he said.

Matfield said his team’s strong start, where they took a 16-0 lead after 25 minutes, had been crucial.

“Everyone was focused and they came out firing,” he said.

Stormers captain Schalk Burger agreed with Matfield’s assessment.

“It was disappointing to give them such a head start,” he said.

“We knew they were going to come out and blitz us. They did that and all credit to them. They’re a champion side.”

Burger said his team had struggled at the breakdowns and appeared to criticise referee Craig Joubert when he said, “the Bulls and us were playing two different sets of breakdown rules today”.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said tradition was an important factor for the Bulls, who walloped the Chiefs 61-17 in the final at Loftus last year.

“There is a long legacy of pride in playing for the Bulls. The jersey means something to the players.”

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