Best Super Rugby final, ever!

A couple of sleeps removed from the 2018 decider, the AOR team debates (with bias!) which final ranks as the best in Super Rugby history.

Zelím Nel – 2007 (Kings Park): Sharks 19-20 Bulls
“Where is Habana, has he been replaced?” Hugh Bladen wondered out loud as the game clock ticked into the 81st minute. “No, he’s down the right wing is Habana.”

Three phases later, Danie Thiart (who went on to play 77 matches for Perpignan) lost the ball in a tackle in the right tram and the Sharks came away with it. Referee Steve Walsh didn’t see the knock on, and none of the officials saw how the Bulls somehow got the ball back in the morass of bodies at that breakdown.

“I don’t know how the Bulls got it back…” mused Bladen.

The ball went wide left where a jinking Akona Ndugane was grounded deep in the 22. Then Heini Adams, who had replaced Fourie du Preez in the 79th minute, collected the ball from a tackled Derick Hougaard, and floated it right with a long pass to Habana.

The Bulls finisher swerved inside, evading no less than seven over-chasing Sharks, before beating JP Pietersen in a sprint to the line for a thrilling try that (after Hougaard’s conversion) clinched the match, the final and South Africa’s first Super Rugby title. It doesn’t get any better than that!

The Bulls had come back from a 14-10 halftime deficit to win the first all-SA Super Rugby final. The showpiece event was made more important in the context of it taking place in a World Cup year (with Bok spots on the line) and in the aftermath of what had been a disappointing 2006 season for South Africa.

Pietersen (12) and Habana (8) were Super Rugby’s leading try-scorers, and the match featured heavyweight showdowns across the park – Ruan Pienaar v Fourie du Preez, Johan Ackermann and Johann Muller v Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield, John Smit v Gary Botha, and AJ Venter and Ryan Kankowski v Wikus van Heerden and Pierre Spies.

Tank Lanning – 2009 (Loftus): Bulls 61-17 Chiefs
For the phenomenal pre-match vibe, and breaking of new ground in SA, the 2010 final between the Bulls and Stormers at the Orlando Stadium (Loftus was being used as a Soccer World venue) is a contender. But the match was a bit of a flop, with much of the focus being on referee Craig Joubert’s handling of the game.

For pure excitement value, Bryan Habana’s last-second burgling of the trophy from the bungling Sharks – in their home town nogal – in 2007 is a no-brainer.

But for selfish reasons, I am going with a final some deem to be the WORST ever!

Thanks to some classy footwork, Stephen Donald set up Lelia Masaga for the opening try in the 2009 final to give the Chiefs a 7-0 lead at Loftus. But that was that from the visitors as the Bulls went on to score 34 points before halftime to end the contest.

It rained tries, though! Fourie Du Preez and Bryan Habana bagged two each, while Victor Matfield, Wynand Olivier, Pierre Spies, and Danie Rossouw also troubled the scorers. Morne Steyn slotted a drop goal for fun.

It remains the highest winning score in a final, and the biggest winning margin. And proved once and for all to the Kiwis how ridiculously tough it is to travel and win in Super Rugby.

Played at the end of May, rather than early August (ahem, SANZAAR!), at a time before even Hatfield was the in-spot for pre-match entertainment, in the space now dedicated to Loftus Park, a myriad of pop-up bars and restaurants had been erected, making the stadium precinct one massive beer festival/market/fun fair.

And as a group (yep, people travelled to finals in those days), the Cheerful Chunkies enjoyed a most splendiferous tour!

Did the guys nail it? Let us know where you were on the day of your favourite Super Rugby final!

- Big Debate

Let's chat

  • Sharky

    Ah, the 2007 final… Heartbreak for every Sharks fan cos up to that point the Sharks were the best Super Rugby side never to have won the title. I still remember Naas’ post-match comment: “Cowboys don’t cry”, and the retort in the Natal Witness the next Monday: “Yes, cowboys don’t cry. But they also don’t cheat and then claim that God was on their side.”

    Bygones…

    My vote would be for the 2010 final between the Bulls and Stormers at the Orlando Stadium.

    • Johan

      In sport, “cheaters always prosper”.

      According to the record books Maradona’s handball sent Argentina through in the SWC.
      Australia won a cricket game with underarm bowling
      Australia usually got reverse swing 10 overs earlier than any other team for years, and was only now caught with Sandpaper in hand. All the results stand though…
      New Zealand’s red cards against France this year…
      Brian O’Driscoll ‘shoulder-gate’…
      Richie McCaw, the world’s best player…
      Lance Armstrong… (look at his net worth even after being caught)

      “Yes, cowboys don’t cry. But they also don’t cheat…” – They don’t win either

      As said by ex-wallaby, Stephen Hoiles, Australian rugby players need to “cheat better”.

      Best Super Rugby final? 1993

      (don’t care about your SANZAR comment)

      • Sharky

        What “SANZAR comment”?

        So “cheaters always prosper”?

        Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft
        Lance Armstrong
        Marion Jones
        Ben Johnson
        Spain’s 2000 Paralympics Basketball team
        …. the list goes on…

        Correction: In sport cheaters only prosper if they wear all black kit ;)

  • Barry Smith

    2007 by some distance because it was down to the wire. It was in fact a scrum that was the issue. From the camera angle, a hand clearly came down on the Bulls side and illegally hooked the ball back. It should have been penalty Sharks – game over!
    I have slowly recovered from the moment, medicating regularly with Whiskey!

  • Chris Mouton

    I’ll never forget that final in 2007 where Habana broke my heart. Trust a player like Habana to make such a massive impact, despite the apparent foul play beforehand…;)

  • Cobus

    From an SA perspective, I think the best final ever was played between the mighty Bulls and the Stormers in Soweto in 2010. The scenes still invoke feelings of absolute pride and patriotism. A great day for South African rugby and society, indeed.

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