Planet Rugby

Preview: Crusaders v Bulls

15th March 2013 06:02

Share:

bulls v crusaders 2012

Home comforts: The winless Crusaders host the unbeaten Bulls

Defeat won't be an option for the Crusaders when the winless Kiwi outfit tackle the unbeaten Bulls in Christchurch on Saturday.

It's not often the seven-time Super Rugby champions enter the fourth round seeking their first victory of the tournament. But an opening round bye followed by back-to-back defeats to the Blues and Hurricanes has left last year's semi-finalists occupying ninth spot on the overall standings.

The last time they lost their first two matches, was in 2005.

The class of 2013 are packed to the rafters with All Blacks, but have yet to look anything like the most successful team in Super Rugby history and will be desperate to make amends.

On the other end of the scale, the second-placed Bulls are one of only three unbeaten teams in the competition and riding a wave of confidence following last Sunday's impressive win over the Blues and their first at Eden Park.

It doesn't get any easier for either side, with the Crusaders' home ground advantage counting in the hosts' favour as the Bulls will once again have to rewrite the history books if they wish to retain their winning record.

The three-time champions have never beaten the Crusaders in their own back yard since 1996 (in the competition's first year when they won under the banner of Northern Transvaal) and a victory in the Garden City will ensure their first consecutive triumph over New Zealand teams on tour following that historic win over the Blues last week.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder knows the Bulls will be confident of removing the Christchurch bogey, and has preperared accordingly in is expected to be a near Test-like encounter.

"They play a game with a lot of box kicks so we've got to be able to take those high balls and use that ball to counter-attack. They haven't changed their game plan in the last five years and we're not expecting anything different from them," he said.

"All week we've been catching the high balls and we've got a couple of new tackling techniques to try out as they're very direct and push a lot of players straight."

However, Bulls skipper Pierre Spies begs to differ with the former Crusaders lock and said after winning the competition three times since 2007 with the same kick-chase style of play it was time to evolve and add new dimensions to their attack - as seen in their three-try win in Auckland.

"I guess we'd like to vary our game a bit and also make use of opportunities we are given. You've got to have a complete game if you want to win the competition," he said.

"And you've got to focus on your strengths also. Some days certain things work for you and other days they don't; that's why you need to be able to play in all areas of the field."

Prediction: The Crusaders are desperate for a win and can't afford another loss, which spells trouble for the Bulls who will find their next Kiwi opponents a lot more tougher than the Blues combination they met last week. No doubt the Bulls will give it horns, but we just can't picture the Crusaders losing three in a row. Can you? Crusaders by 10!

The teams:

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tyler Bleyendaal, 22 Adam Whitelock.

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Jürgen Visser, 10 Mornè Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandrè Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Mornè Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Jan Serfontein.

Date: Saturday, March 16
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19:35 (06:35 GMT)
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
Television match official: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand vs AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Preview
Argentina vs South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Preview
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse vs CastresToulouse vs Castres Preview
Saturday , August 23
Brive vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Toulon vs La Rochelle18:30
Bayonne vs Oyonnax18:30
Bordeaux-Begles vs Racing Metro Paris18:30
Montpellier vs GrenobleMontpellier vs Grenoble Preview
Stade Francais vs Lyon20:45
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne vs Montpellier20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 23
Blue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
Western Province vs Lions17:05
Sharks vs Cheetahs19:10
Friday , August 29
Pumas vs Sharks19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Saturday , August 23
Northland vs WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Preview
Counties Manukau vs OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Preview
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu vs AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Preview
Bay Of Plenty vs TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Preview
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato vs Taranaki19:35
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury vs Northland19:35
Friday , August 29
Wellington vs Manawatu09:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Currie Cup
Friday , August 22
Pumas 33 - 15 GriquasPumas vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 27 - 58 CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Report
Hawkes Bay 29 - 26 TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Report
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
Sunday , August 17
Tasman 35 - 15 Hawkes BayTasman vs Hawkes Bay Report
Northland 23 - 28 Manawatu
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 16
Australia 12 - 12 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
South Africa 13 - 6 ArgentinaSouth Africa vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Clermont Auvergne 30 - 26 GrenobleClermont Auvergne vs Grenoble Report
Montpellier 16 - 19 Racing Metro ParisMontpellier vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Brive 37 - 15 La Rochelle
Castres 22 - 25 Stade Francais
Bordeaux-Begles 18 - 9 Lyon
Toulouse 20 - 19 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Lions 60 - 19 Eastern Province KingsLions vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 41 - 17 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
Cheetahs 34 - 27 GriquasCheetahs vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Otago 28 - 14 North Harbour
Wellington 25 - 37 WaikatoWellington vs Waikato Report
Canterbury 48 - 9 AucklandCanterbury vs Auckland Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 15
Bayonne 15 - 29 ToulonBayonne vs Toulon Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 34 - 17 PumasSharks vs Pumas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Southland 34 - 23 Bay Of Plenty
Thursday , August 14
Taranaki 9 - 9 Counties ManukauTaranaki vs Counties Manukau Report
More ITM Cup results
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 9
Griquas 24 - 31 SharksGriquas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00