Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Pretoria - Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has called on his charges to play “smart rugby” when they face up against seven time champions, the Crusaders at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The Bulls suffered in their narrow loss at the hands of the Stormers last weekend when they let the emotion of the occasion overwhelm them in the first half, making silly mistakes as they allowed the Stormers to rack up a big first-half lead.
While there was a big fightback in the second half, the Bulls know a similar situation on their home ground would be fatal against the Crusaders, especially as the New Zealanders are masters at exploiting mistakes of the opposition, as the Lions found out to their peril last weekend.
The Bulls know they face a very hungry Crusaders team this weekend, and after losing in Cape Town, they will want to rectify matters with a solid performance on home base.
“On Saturday discipline cost us, and it was the major difference between the two sides. We addressed those things on Monday and we stress accountability and we help players to make better decisions there. There were definitely some silly penalties and that is the thing you want to limit. We have the commitment of the players and we know discipline will be vital again,” Ludeke explained.
“Guys are eager and want to add value, make a difference and sometimes they get it wrong. We can definitely be smarter.”
Ludeke said the Crusaders were a team that would pose very different challenges to the Bulls this weekend, and the way they control their own ball and use it across the breadth of the field would be a major factor in the Loftus battle.
“It was a huge contest on the weekend.The Stormers were smart in the first half and we were definitely there and had our opportunities in the second half. We had some situations where we didn’t capitalise but in the end one big moment from a player could have won it for us,” Ludeke added.
“This week is a different contest and the Crusaders are definitely a side who bring the best out in us. Like Pierre Spies (Bulls captain) said we respect them and what they bring to the contest. Ball movement will be vital to us this weekend; to make sure we are disciplined and control the ball.”
While the Crusaders have endured their regular slow start, they certainly have a championship pedigree about them and sit just a few spots below the Bulls at the moment, having flown rather under the radar during the first six rounds of the competition.
“They have played against sides that played well. The Crusaders have lost away from home, so you can’t take too much from the log at the moment and the performances of some of the teams. Every team will lose at one stage. We have had a good week’s preparation and our focus is spot on. We’re looking forward to the game on the weekend.”
With that in mind, Ludeke has kept the same side for the clash, mainly as reserve hooker Willie Wepener is still suffering with a facial infection, while Deon Stegmann’s hamstring injury has ruled him out for a fourth week now.
This means Bongi Mbonambi will deputise for Chiliboy Ralepelle for a second week in a row, while CJ Stander will need to continue in Stegmann’s place, leaving the Bulls without a fetcher against the very dangerous Matt Todd. Teams:
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 JJ EngelbrechtCrusaders: