Vodacom Super 14

Crusaders tip Chiefs to win

2009-05-25 11:14
Ian Foster (File)
Pretoria - The vanquished Crusaders believe the Chiefs have a chance against the irrepressible Bulls because of their attacking skills but coach Todd Blackadder and skipper Richie McCaw are also quick to put the challenge of this week's Super 14 final into perspective for their fellow Kiwis.

Losing the magic of Sitiveni Sivivatu to a dislocated shoulder is a blow although the Chiefs have shown an ability to operate without him in the crucial back three division.

But Blackadder believed the biggest task facing Ian Foster's side was how they would deal with the choker hold the Bulls place on visiting teams at Loftus Versfeld, content to live off opposition mistakes as much as create their own opportunities as the Crusaders had found out again in their second semi-final defeat, losing 36-23 at the Pretoria stronghold.

Many of the Bulls' own creation plans centred around three-point opportunities with Morne Steyn stepping to the fore. Two years ago it was Derrick Hougaard kicking all 27 points including a record eight penalties to beat the Crusaders. On Saturday it was Morne Steyn's 21 points including a Super 14 record of four dropped goals that eventually killed off the champions' hopes of defending their title in Hamilton.

So now it's the Chiefs who enter the Bull-ring and must learn to find a way past Victor Matfield's side, something they weren't able to do in week 11 of the round-robin when the Bulls ended the Chiefs' six-match unbeaten run with a 33-27 win.

"The way the Chiefs are playing, particularly at the back, they will be dangerous. The Chiefs have got different strengths in different areas," said Blackadder, offering a ray of hope for the New Zealanders as they get set for their first Super Rugby final.

"But the Bulls have got a really strong set piece and the way they are playing - they play field position and force mistakes, they never stop trying and with those dropped goals ..."

Blackadder's voice trailed off at the mention of dropped goals before he quickly added: "It's going to be a great final next week."

McCaw, who bore the brunt of the Bulls head-on, was in total agreement with his wise coach about the possibilities and the certainties in the looming final.

"I think if the Bulls give them a bit of space with inaccurate kicking the Chiefs have the firepower to put them under pressure," said McCaw.

"But if the Bulls play that stifling style of rugby where they play at the right end of the field and take their points on offer, that's where I think the Chiefs might battle.

"It will be another good match I'd suggest ... it could be a great final."

The Crusaders' leaders lamented their side's inability to press home their advantage after they lead 20-7. Costly field kicking mistakes had been punished with two quick counter-attacking tries by the Bulls just before half-time and then Steyn frustrated them with his unerring boot.

The dropped goal, a trademark of South African rugby at altitude, came back to haunt another New Zealand side, just as the Springboks have done to the All Blacks in the past.

Steyn later made no apologies and suggested more were probably in store for the Chiefs.

"It was always our game plan for dropped goals because in semi-finals and finals there aren't many try-scoring opportunities," said Steyn who also praised the way the Bulls forwards had set up the chances for droppies by manoeuvring play into the right field positions.

The Chiefs face a massive logistical exercise ahead of the final. They left Hamilton at 03:00 on Sunday by bus to Auckland for the long flight to Johannesburg via Australia. Then it's immediately on to another bus for the hour's haul to Pretoria.

That will give them less than five days to adjust to the time difference and altitude factor as well as come up with a game plan to counter the Bulls.

They have taken a wise precautionary step of adding another prop to their mix with front-rower Nathan White coming in.


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