Crusaders vs Bulls Preview
July 19, 2012 Leave a comment
Can any team beat the Crusaders in a Vodacom Super Rugby knock-out match in Christchurch? History says no, but the Vodacom Bulls will say nothing is impossible.
In their only previous playoff in Christchurch, the Crusaders won easily – that was in 2006 when the Crusaders won by 35-15 and went on to win the title the next week against the Hurricanes.
And while the Vodacom Bulls turned the tables in 2007, 2009 and 2010, all three those games were played in Gauteng (two at Loftus Versfeld and one at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto), which meant the Crusaders had to travel across numerous time zones to play in the semi-final.
This week the travel factor will count against the Vodacom Bulls, but they have arrived in New Zealand confident of causing what would amount to a big upset.
Frans Ludeke, coach of the Vodacom Bulls who was also at the helm when they won the title in 2009 and 2010, said that there is very little to choose between the teams in action this weekend.
“There isn’t one team that has an edge on another and it will all come down to which team handles the pressure the best,” said Ludeke.
“This is finals rugby and we know how to handle the pressure. We are playing away but we know this is a once-off game and we know what we have to do.
“We know this is the most important game of our season, and we have to have the belief. We have made one or two small adjustments to our game, but we are confident going into Saturday’s game.”
Earlier this season, the Vodacom Bulls lost both their tour matches in New Zealand – in Dunedin against the Highlanders and in Hamilton against the Chiefs, eventual Conference winners in that country. And even though they have not beaten the Crusaders away from home since Northern Transvaal did so in the days before we had South African franchises in 1996, they are confident of doing well.
“We took a lot of positives out of our tour here, even though we lost the games in New Zealand,” said Ludeke.
“We were in with a chance of victory in both games and we want to make sure we have a chance this weekend. It is a vital game for us and it will come down to how we handle it.”
This is the fifth time these two teams will face each other in the playoffs since 2006 – all of them in semi-finals. In fact, since that year, when the Super 12 was expanded to the Super 14, the Crusaders and Vodacom Bulls have won all but one of the competitions.
Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Adam Whitelock, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Zac Guildford, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Richie McCaw (captain), Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Replacements: Quentin MacDonald, Ben Franks, Tom Donnelly, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Tom Taylor, Sean Maitland.
Vodacom Bulls: Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Wynand Olivier, Bjorn Basson, Mornè Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies (captain), Dewald Potgieter, Jacques Potgieter, Juandrè Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Willie Wepener, Frik Kirsten, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Deon Stegmann, Jano Vermaak, Louis Fouchè, Francois Venter.
Vodacom Bulls in Super Rugby playoffs:
Won: 6 (3 finals, 3 semi-finals)
Lost: 3 (all semi-finals)
Crusaders in Super Rugby playoffs:
Won: 18 (7 finals)
Lost: 6 (3 finals and 3 semi-finals)
Crusaders v Vodacom Bulls in playoffs:
20 May 2006: Crusaders won 35-15 in Christchurch (semi-final)
12 May 2007: Vodacom Bulls won 27-12 in Pretoria (semi-final)
23 May 2009: Vodacom Bulls won 36-23 in Pretoria (semi-final)
22 May 2010: Vodacom Bulls won 39-24 in Soweto (semi-final)