Sharks hard man AJ Venter believes the Crusaders can win against the Bulls. In fact he is backing them to come good in Pretoria and end the Bulls Vodacom Super 14 play-off aspirations.
Keo.co.za spoke to Venter, who admitted to being ‘bloody sore’ after the bruising 34-27 defeat against the Bulls in Pretoria. And the big guy was frank when assessing the Bulls prospects.
When asked if the Bulls would physically play the Crusaders off the park, he said no.
“I know they did a year ago and the Crusaders have been very flat in their last two matches, but having played both of them this season, there’s not much difference when it comes to the physical nature of both teams.
“The second 40 minutes we played against the Crusaders earlier this season was as hard as the first 40 we encountered against the Bulls. And let me tell you that first 40 against the Bulls was bloody physical. So I don’t think the Bulls can simply expect to turn up and destroy the Crusaders.
“I think the two games against the Hurricanes and Waratahs took a lot out of them and that is why they have been so lethargic in the last two matches. Richie McCaw’s return is big for them and I think they are a good enough side to edge out the Bulls, even though the game is in Pretoria.”
Venter said it would be great for South African rugby if the Bulls won and qualified for the play-offs, but added he did not believe Loftus was quite as intimidating this season as it was a year ago for the top visiting teams.
“They deserved to beat us on the basis of that opening 40 minutes, but they weren’t quite the same side in the second half and they have had a tendency to fall away in games in the second half. The Brumbies and Hurricanes both survived the early onslaught and just sneaked two wins at Loftus and the Bulls also finished poorly overseas. The Crusaders will believe they can win when looking at the Bulls inability to sustain the intensity in many of their games. The Brumbies and Canes matches were significant because both teams were good enough to keep playing for 80 minutes. They refused to get steamrolled. We also came close after that fantastic Bulls first half. The intensity of the first 40 just was not there and with a bit of good fortune we may just have got there in the end.
“They played brilliantly in the first 40 minutes, but they will have to give more than 40 minutes to beat the Crusaders, who I still rate as the best team in the competition.”