Super 14 - Semi-Finals
Bulls lie in wait for Crusaders
May 19, 2009
Brad Thorn is still an injury worry for the Crusaders © Getty Images
The Bulls host last season's winners Crusaders in the second Super 14 semi-final at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. The winners will progress to face the Chiefs, who downed the Hurricanes to book their passage on Friday.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has been handed a setback after centre Wynand Olivier failed a fitness test on a hip injury. Olivier limped out of last weekend's win over the Sharks and is the second casualty after his fellow centre JP Nel was handed a four-week ban for a dangerous tackle.
Marius Delport replaces Olivier and partners Jaco Pretorius in the centre, with Morne Steyn and Fourie Du Preez pulling the strings in an otherwise unchanged backline. Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane and Bryan Habana provide the firepower out wide.
Victor Matfield leads the side, with his usual second-row partner Bakkies Botha taking his place in the starting line-up after a citing against him was dismissed by a SANZAR disciplinary panel.
"We will have a few short, sharp sessions during the week and all our focus is on winning the match," said Ludeke. "We need to put the Crusaders under immense pressure and grind the result out. They were tough opponents in the league stages of the competition in Christchurch and they had the better of us in the set pieces but we are prepared to play and take them on for the full 80 minutes."
Crusaders boss Todd Blackadder has named All Blacks lock Brad Thorn in the second-row despite his ongoing battle with injury. Michael Paterson has been bracketed alongside Thorn should he not make it, while scrum-half Andy Ellis has been bracketed with Kahn Fotuali'i after enduring a race for fitness this week.
Richie McCaw skippers the side, with Kieran Reid and Scott Waldrom completing the back-row. Leon MacDonald continues his swansong from Super Rugby and starts at fullback, with Stephen Brett taking the fly-half jersey.
Former Crusaders coach Robbie Deans, now in charge of Australia, believes that his former charges have what it takes to win in Pretoria after losing out in a semi-final there in 2007.
"They're well equipped because they've shown resilience all year and they thrive in these kind of contests," he said. "They've been there once [in 2007] and come up short, and I suspect it won't happen twice. It's been fantastic to see [them make the semi-finals], long may it last.They've got three very good men in charge, good coaches as well."
Bulls: Zane Kirchner; Akona Ndungane, Jaco Pretorius, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana; Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez; Pierre Spies, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield (capt), Bakkies Botha, Werner Kruger, Derick Kuün, Gurthrö Steenkamp
Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Rayno Gerber, Danie Rossouw, Pedrie Wannenburg, Heini Adams, Burton Francis, Gerhard van den Heever
Crusaders: Leon MacDonald, Jared Payne, Tim Bateman, Ryan Crotty, Adam Whitelock, Stephen Brett, Andy Ellis/Kahn Fotuali'i, Thomas Waldrom, Richie McCaw (capt), Kieran Read, Isaac Ross, Brad Thorn/Michael Paterson, Owen Franks, Jason Macdonald, Wyatt Crockett
Replacements: Daniel Perrin, Ben Franks, Michael Paterson/Ross Filipo, George Whitelock, Kahn Fotuali'i/Tyson Keats, Colin Slade, Hamish Gard