THE Bulls claimed their second straight Super 14 rugby title with a 25-17 win over the Stormers in an all-South African final in Soweto on Saturday.
Fly-half Morne Steyn kicked 20 points and wing Francois Hougaard broke clear for a first-half try as the defending champions from Pretoria led from start to finish.
"It's an amazing moment to win the Super 14 back to back," Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said. "It's a special achievement for the side. We really embraced the moment every week. That's what made it a more enjoyable journey than last year's one."
Bryan Habana, who helped the Bulls clinch their first title in 2007 and won with them last year, raised hopes of a Stormers recovery with his 54th-minute intercept try – his third in two weeks against his former team.
Replacement scrum-half Ricky Januarie stretched over late for the Stormers as the first-time finalists from Cape Town outscored the Bulls two tries to one but ran out of time.
Steyn landed seven from eight kicks at goal to lead the Bulls to victory in the last Super 14. The Melbourne Rebels join an expanded Super 15 next year.
South Africa President Jacob Zuma appeared on the field before kick-off and told the sell-out 40,000-strong crowd he delayed an international trip to be at the final, which he called a significant moment in the history of South Africa.
The Bulls – whose own stadium was in the control of Fifa for the football World Cup – were playing for the second time in the famous black township on the outskirts of Johannesburg.
The Bulls never trailed and were backed by the crowd, a mix of locals and Pretoria fans, who adopted football fans' vuvuzela trumpets for the game.
"It's a bit difficult to do lineout calls," winning captain Victor Matfield said in reference to the noise at their adopted home. "It was a great atmosphere. We still love Loftus, don't throw away Loftus, but we really enjoyed the two weeks here and I think it was something special for our country."
Springboks No 10 Steyn kicked two early penalties to increase his record points haul in a Super 14 season to 249. With 13 former winners in their side, the Bulls hogged possession and dominated territory in the opening stages against the competition's best defence.
"Too many mistakes and too many penalties," Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said. "This is a quality Bulls side and they have got the knack of turning the screws and keeping the pressure on. But, honestly, the season has been fantastic."
The southern hemisphere's strongest team over the last four years will keep the trophy after winning it for a third time. The Bulls became only the third team to win the Super title at least three times, joining the Canterbury Crusaders (seven) and Auckland Blues (three).
Scorers: Bulls: Try: Hougaard. Conversion: Steyn. Penalties: Steyn (6). Stormers: Tries: Habana, Januarie. Conversions: Grant (2). Penalty: Grant.
Kirchner; van den Heever, Pretorius, Olivier, Hougaard; Steyn, du Preez; Steenkamp, Botha, Kruger, Rossouw, Matfield, Stegmann, D Potgieter, Spies. Replacements: Maku, Roux, van der Merwe, Kuun, J Potgieter, van der Westhuyzen, Wannenburg.
Pietersen; Aplon, J Fourie, de Jongh, Habana; Grant, Duvenage; Blaauw, Liebenberg, Harris, Fondse, Bekker, Burger, F. Louw, Vermeulen. Replacements: D Fourie, Kritzinger, van Zyl, P Louw, Januarie, de Waal, Whitehead.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)