Steyn stars as Bulls reach Rainbow Cup final against Benetton

·3-min read
Bulls fly-half Morne Steyn (R) succeeded with six of seven kicks at goal as the Bulls beat the Sharks to reach the Rainbow Cup final.

Recalled South Africa fly-half Morne Steyn kicked 14 points as the clinical Bulls beat the Sharks 34-22 on Saturday to set up a cross-hemisphere Rainbow Cup final against Italian side Benetton.

Back in the Springboks squad after a four-year absence for Test series against Georgia and the British and Irish Lions from July 2, Steyn slotted four conversions and two penalties.

He succeeded with six consecutive attempts at goal after watching his first kick at Kings Park in Durban veer right and wide.

One of the Bulls' four try scorers was centre Cornal Hendricks and the veteran whose career was once threatened by heart disease won the man-of-the-match award.

"We fly to Italy on Monday for the final and are very excited. I believe the team are mentally ready to win this competition," he said.

"The pressure was on the Sharks as they had to score a bonus-point victory and prevent us collecting any points in order to squeeze into the final.

"Our mindset was not about securing one point to ensure qualification for the title decider -- it was to win the match."

A game staged in an empty stadium due to the coronavirus pandemic took a decisive turn six minutes before half-time with the Sharks leading 7-6 and camped deep in Bulls' territory.

The home side knocked on twice within a minute as they were poised to score and the Bulls broke away with Hendricks outpacing Sharks fly-half Curwin Bosch to score.

- Powerful scrumming -

Instead of leading by eight points, the Durban outfit trailed by six points as Steyn converted from close to the touchline.

A Bosch penalty narrowed the deficit to 13-10 by half-time, but a Bulls side boosted by powerful scrumming gradually took control in the second half and scored three tries for a 34-15 lead.

Full-back Anthony Volmink scored a spectacular late try for the home team while the Bulls were down to 13 men after loose forward Marco van Staden and prop Trevor Nyakane were yellow-carded.

The July 19 final will be played at the home ground of shock Rainbow Cup northern hemisphere winners Benetton in northeastern city Treviso.

Benetton received four points when final-round opponents the Ospreys from Wales could not host them this weekend after three of their squad tested positive for Covid-19.

The Italians moved to 22 points from five matches, and out of the reach of runners-up Munster with the Glasgow Warriors third.

Captained by South African scrum-half Dewaldt Duvenage, Benetton will be underdogs in the first competitive match between a European club and a top South African franchise.

When coronavirus spread across the world last year, the New Zealand and Australian franchises abandoned Super Rugby in favour of domestic and Trans-Tasman competitions.

The Bulls, Sharks and the other leading South African franchises, the Stormers and Lions, turned to Europe and the Rainbow Cup is a prelude to them playing 'Pro16' rugby next season.

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