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17 May 2008 23:58
World superstar Bryan Habana dotted down twice as Super 14 title holders the Northern Bulls crushed the Central Cheetahs 60-20 in a final-round mini-league match on Saturday.
Fellow wing Akona Ndungane also scored two tries in the all-South Africa clash and fullback Zane Kirchner, flyhalf Morne Steyn, prop Werner Kruger and number eight Pierre Spies one each as the Bulls made it four wins in a row.
Steyn was in deadly kicking form, succeeding with seven of eight conversion attempts, landing a penalty goal and a long-range drop goal that edged his team in front for the first time four minutes before the break.
However, the sole South African winners of the annual southern-hemisphere interprovincial rugby union championship will not feature in the knockout stages after poor early-season form.
Despite their biggest triumph of the 13-match campaign, a Bulls side packed with Springboks finished the match in the same position they started it: 10th, 13 points adrift of fourth-placed Western Stormers.
The Cheetahs, who dodged bottom place by collecting one point more than fellow South Africans the Golden Lions, started promisingly to lead 17-8 after 27 minutes and trailed by a single point at half-time.
But the franchise from Bloemfontein collapsed in the second half as half-hearted defending allowed the Bulls from Pretoria to score six tries while all the hosts could manage was a penalty goal.
Centre JW Jonker twice and wing Jongi Nokwe once crossed the try line for the Cheetahs, and stand-in flyhalf Tewis de Bruyn converted one and kicked the penalty goal.
After a 50-22 hiding from New Zealand visitors the Wellington Hurricanes in mid-April, the Bulls have recaptured the form that took them to victory at compatriots Coastal Sharks in the final last year.
They amassed 91 points in home victories over the Otago Highlanders of New Zealand and the New South Wales Waratahs and ACT Brumbies of Australia before running riot against the Cheetahs.
It was difficult to imagine such a one-sided outcome in the early exchanges, however, with Jonker dashing on to a De Bruyn grubber kick to touch down in the corner after six minutes.
Steyn cut the deficit with a penalty only for Jonker to cross the line again on 21 minutes after Bok prop CJ van der Linde shrugged off several tackles in a powerful burst.
After Ndungane claimed the first Bulls try in the corner off a pass from lock Bakkies Botha, Nokwe rounded off slick Cheetahs handling by going over for the home side.
That try signalled the high point of the evening for the Cheetahs as they once again were let down by tackling that had no place in such a high-profile competition.—Sapa-AFP
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