Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – It was probably always going to happen ... the
New Zealand media has picked up on the “eye gouging” hoo-ha from the last
meeting between the two to stoke up home passions ahead of the Christchurch
meeting between the Crusaders and Bulls on Saturday.
The sides meet there in a finals series qualifier on
Saturday (09:35 SA time), a few months after the rumpus which followed the
Loftus encounter during ordinary season, won narrowly 32-30 by the Bulls after
they had led by a rather more commanding 32-16 eight minutes from time.
On that occasion, the Bulls afterwards submitted accusations
that lock Flip van der Merwe and hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle had been victims of
gouging, although the SANZAR citing commissioner quickly ruled there was no
evidence to support the claims.
Writing on New Zealand news website The Press (Press.co.nz)
on Monday, Richard Knowler ventured: “Todd Blackadder (the Crusaders’ coach)
and Kieran Read (acting captain, as Richie McCaw missed the earlier meeting)
were adamant the allegations were unfounded.
“Both were annoyed by the insinuations and later they
privately questioned what the Bulls, who they have always respected, had to
gain by making such claims ... Blackadder is still waiting for an apology.
“The Crusaders will not have forgotten the Pretoria
accusations; the sleeping dogs may be roused.”
He also suggested that the home team would be additionally
motivated by the hurt of several knockout-phase losses to the Bulls on South
African soil in recent seasons: they surrendered semi-finals at Loftus in all
of 2010 (39-24), 2009 (36-23) and 2007 (27-12).
The Bulls, however, have a dreadful record in Christchurch,
where they last won a Super Rugby match -- as Northern Transvaal – in 1996,
when the Crusaders ended bottom of the standings and were beaten 34-18 by the
men from the Highveld.
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