Underdog Chiefs can chase Bulls all the way
World Super 14 final Northern Bulls v Waikato Chiefs Loftus Versfeld Saturday May 30
The two best teams in Super 14 do battle on Saturday with bookie William Hill chalking up hosts Northern Bulls as the 4/11 favourites to get the better of the 2/1 Waikato Chiefs in the Loftus Versfeld final on Saturday.
The Bulls, with home advantage in their Pretoria stronghold and the huge benefit of playing at altitude, are worthy favourites.
They finished the Super 14 season top of the pile with ten wins and three losses with their New Zealand opponents coming home second with nine wins and four reverses.
But before writing off those 2/1 underdogs, make a note that in their Super 14 league meeting earlier this season the Chiefs were far from overawed going down 33-27 despite the sin-bin loss of Sione Lauaki (25/1 first try scorer) for a stiff arm tackle on flying machine Bryan Habana (9/1 to score first try).
Further optimism for Saturday's outsiders is fuelled by the fact that in the second half of that clash the Chiefs outscored their opponents 7-6. Could that 2/1 Hills are currently dangling turn out to be a real gem?
If the New Zealanders have gained from that experience at 50,000 capacity Loftus Versfeld then this could be a tad closer than those learned odds compilers may believe.
With that in mind I'm a big fan of the 10/11 available on William Hill's 80 minute match handicap that gives the Chiefs an 8 point start.
The Bulls, who include 12 regular Springboks in their number, are aiming to regain the World Super 14 title they first won in 2007.
A key contest that could well decide the outcome of Saturday's game is the battle of the fly-halves. Morne Steyn (20/1 first try scorer) of the Bulls versus Stephen Donald (20/1 first try scorer) of the Chiefs.
Steyne, a man with a penchant for slotting crucial dropkicks, is being tipped to fill the No10 jersey for the forthcoming Lions Tour of South Africa. Chiefs' assistant coach Craig Stevenson has said that his back row will be targeting Steyne.
"Morne is a very good player and he kicks the ball a long way, especially at altitude, we are going to have to close it down, we have to make sure we put pressure on," he stated in the lead up to this potential classic.
Steyn dropped four goals as Northern Bulls staged a stunning recovery to defeat Canterbury Crusaders 36-23 to book their final place.
Meanwhile, opposite number Donald has 10 All Black caps to his name and has been prolific for the Chiefs this term. If the Bulls don't keep the Waikato man in his cage it could well spell serious trouble for the home boys.