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Bulls, Stormers set for all-SA Soweto final

Bulls, Stormers set for all-SA Soweto final

World Cup fever may be taking a grip on South Africa, but for a couple of hours this Saturday, the nation's focus will be fixed on rugby and a unique Super 14 final.
The all-South African decider, just the second in Super rugby history, pits the defending champion Bulls from Pretoria against Cape Town's Stormers _ who are playing their first final _ at Soweto's Orlando Stadium.
The venue has captured the imagination of South African sports fans. Rugby, predominantly popular among whites, will stage its showdown in the township home of one million mainly poor blacks.
Anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu said the Bulls' choice to go to Soweto _ their Loftus Versfeld stadium is being prepared for the World Cup _ was "the most important development in the sport since the Springboks won the World Cup in 1995."
"It is one of those special South African moments that proves we are better off for having one another," said Tutu, who is a Stormers supporter.
The country's main rugby television show 'Boots and All' will broadcast live from Soweto with Winnie Madikizela Mandela, ex-wife of former president Nelson Mandela and a leading figure in Soweto, as one of its guests.
The broadcast will take place from Soweto's famous Vilikazi Street, once home to Tutu and Mandela, which is just moments from the Orlando Stadium.
The game at the 40,000-seat stadium is a sellout, with tens of thousands of Bulls supporters again expected to make the trek from the nation's capital to the southern outskirts of Johannesburg to experience the township culture _ that until a week ago was foreign to many of them.
The Bulls beat New Zealand's Canterbury Crusaders in the first semifinal _ Orlando's dress rehearsal _ last weekend and the Stormers followed up with victory over Australia's New South Wales in Cape Town.
The Bulls, the form team with 19 straight home wins, will play for a second successive title and a third in four years against the Stormers, who have belatedly reached a final after losing in the semis in 1999 and 2004.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has recalled his leading tryscorer Gerhard van den Heever in the only change to the starting 15 after the wing's return from a two-week suspension.
Van den Heever is one of just two starters in the vastly experienced Bulls team who have not won a Super 14 title before.
"The guys have worked very hard to get this far," Ludeke said. "We have created the opportunity to be part of something special, now we need to embrace it."
The Stormers have the best defensive record in the competition, while the Bulls are the top points scorers.
Allister Coetzee's Stormers have just one player with Super 14 final experience in their ranks, Springboks winger Bryan Habana who won with the Bulls in 2007 and 2009 before his move to Cape Town in the offseason.
Coetzee has said his team will be boosted by Habana's presence as the first-time finalists attempt to ignore the distractions of the occasion and focus on capturing a first Super rugby title.
"Although it's a Super 14 final and it's between SA teams, whatever comes with that, we have to embrace that," Coetzee said.
"We have a saying of blocking out external factors. The players know the pressures that come with the job and they need to block that out."


Updated : 2021-04-13 20:33 GMT+08:00