Lock Paul Willemse scored two tries as the Northern Bulls triumphed 40-7 against the Melbourne Rebels on Friday in the final Super 15 match of the season for both teams.
It was a predictable outcome at a freezing Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, as the Bulls did not lose at home this year and the Rebels have never won in South Africa.
The former champion Bulls finished ninth on the combined standings because they lost all eight away games in the southern hemisphere provincial competition.
The Rebels, who were without suspended No. 8 and skipper Scott Higginbotham, came last on the 15-team table with four victories and 12 losses.
“It was a disappointing season,” Bulls veteran lock and skipper Victor Matfield said, “but we gave five teenagers game-time tonight and the future is bright.”
The Rebels’ stand-in skipper and flank Scott Fuglistaller was equally hopeful.
“Recent results have been poor, but our youngsters are developing quickly,” he said.
New Springboks fly-half Handre Pollard kicked four penalty goals to give the home side a 12-7 half-time advantage in front of a crowd kept small by the mid-winter chill.
Fly-half Jack Debreczeni scored a try for the visitors midway through the opening half and converted it to give the Rebels a 7-6 advantage.
However, Debreczeni fluffed three other shots at goal during the first 40 minutes, while Pollard finished with a perfect record from seven kicks at goal.
The Rebels were temporarily reduced to 14 men seven minutes before half-time, when Fuglistaller was yellow-carded after repeated infringements by the Rebels.
Willemse, sin-binned during the first half for a dangerous off-the-ball tackle, claimed his first try two minutes into the second half.
Full-back Jurgen Visser broke through and Willemse was up in support to dive over with Pollard adding the extra two points for a 19-7 advantage.
The lock struck again on 52 minutes after replacement prop Dean Greyling made the hard yards when Bulls won a line-out close to Rebels’ try-line.
It was now one-way traffic deep in Rebels’ territory and any doubt about the outcome was settled just before the hour mark when left-wing Francois Hougaard went over.
Pollard converted both tries and Bulls were 19 points ahead with 20 minutes left on the final league weekend of the Super 15 season.
The Rebels’ powerful left-wing Tom English was held up having got over the Bulls’ line in a rare moment of anxiety for the hosts.
Greyling completed the scoring with a bonus-point fourth try for the blue-clad South Africans three minutes from time.