Bulls v Crusaders - Super 14 Game of the Week
Crusaders strive for Bulls upset
May 5, 2010
Crusaders captain Richie McCaw is wrapped up by the Stormers defence last weekend © Getty Images
The Bulls host the third-placed Crusaders at their Loftus Versfeld fortress in Pretoria on Friday in a critical encounter for the visitors.
Beating the Bulls in Pretoria could be the launchpad for the Crusaders to push on with confidence in the finals, but a loss could see them drop as low as seventh with one round left. The Bulls have won every game on South African soil in the past two years and are almost indestructible in Pretoria. The Crusaders have lost two on the road after six wins in a row, but a failure to beat the Bulls after falling to the Stormers last week - while disastrous for their top four hopes - would put their title credentials under serious question anyway.
Lock Danie Rossouw replaces Bakkies Botha in the only change to the Bulls' starting side and will earn his 100th Super Rugby cap in the process. Rossouw is preferred to partner captain Victor Matfield in the second row with Botha, who played his first game since November 2009 against the Sharks last Saturday, dropping to the bench.
"It's great partnering either Danie or Bakkies at lock and I'm sure that if there wasn't Bakkies, then Danie would have 70 or 80 test matches already behind his name," Matfield said. "Many of his games may have been off the bench, but I don't think people realise how valuable he is to both the Bulls and the Boks.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke expected the desperate Crusaders to launch an assault on them at ruck time, a tactic that backfired when the fourth-placed New Zealanders lost to the Stormers at Newlands on Friday, having failed to adapt to referee Stuart Dickinson's rulings.
"It's been a tactic of theirs throughout the tournament and with players like Richie McCaw they're pretty equipped to torture you at the breakdown if you allow them to," Ludeke added. "They've got the players that allow them to vary their approach between playing a tight, expansive or kicking game, or indeed a blend of all three. I can't say for certain how they will approach this game, but we are prepared for every eventuality."
Crusaders hooker Corey Flynn is out of the game having returned home to Christchurch after spraining his ankle in his side's defeat to the Stormers in Cape Town with Dan Perrin heading in the opposite direction as cover. Ti'i Paulo comes in to start at No.2 while Perrin is on the bench.
Daniel Bowden has been introduced at inside centre for Ryan Crotty in a move aimed at taking some of the playmaking heat off Dan Carter. Crotty drops right out of the match squad, with Tim Bateman joining the replacements.
Coach Todd Blackadder said changes were necessary after the loss to the Stormers. He said: "Dan (Bowden) gives us a different few kicking options which we believe will be important for this match. Ryan has shown signs of fatigue so he is being rested."
In other changes from the match in Cape Town, Ben Franks starts ahead of his brother Owen at tighthead prop and Andy Ellis gets his first start at scrum-half for a month in place of Kahn Fotuali'i.
Assistant coach Mark Hammett said it was up to Carter's fellow backs to step up their game and offer more support to their star man if the team was to reach the level of the competition benchmark they meet this week.
"The guys are hurting and so are the coaches," Hammett said. "DC is probably struggling for a wee bit of form, but believe it or not I believe it is a really good thing for him. In years gone by he's probably had the likes of Aaron Mauger [standing outside him] and when he's been playing for the All Blacks he's got an experienced group. He's got a very young group outside him and while sometimes that's frustrating ... he's actually growing his game without realising it.
"As a backline combination these young guys [Ryan Crotty, Robbie Fruean, Zac Guildford and Sean Maitland] really need to start feeding information in and make sure they aren't just the ears to listen for what DC wants - because often at Super 14 level the speed of the game is too quick."
In an interesting sub-plot, Bulls fly-half Morne Steyn needs just six points to equal Crusader opposite Dan Carter's record of the fastest 200 points in Super rugby history, in just 12 games.
Bulls: Zane Kirchner, Gerhard van den Heever, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Wynand Olivier, Francois Hougaard, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield (captain), Danie Rossouw, Werner Kruger, Gary Botha, Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: Bandise Maku, Bees Roux, Bakkies Botha, Derick Kuün, Jaco van der Westhuyzen, Stephan Dippenaar, Pedrie Wannenburg.
Crusaders: Colin Slade, Sean Maitland, Robbie Fruean, Daniel Bowden, Zac Guildford, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), George Whitelock, Chris Jack, Brad Thorn, Ben Franks, Ti'i Paulo, Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: Dan Perrin, Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock, Thomas Waldrom, Kahn Fotuali'i, Tim Bateman, Jared Payne.