Bulls coach Frans Ludeke scoffed at suggestions that the indifferent form of Dan Carter and Richie McCaw will make their challenge easier.
The Crusaders’ dynamic twosome has struggled in recent weeks, delivering performances well below the standard they’ve set for themselves.
In the last two matches, the Force and Stormers were able to nullify McCaw’s immense threat at the breakdown by ensuring that their ball carriers and cleaners were in sync, thereby forcing him to either infringe in an attempt to turn over possession or resist a pilfer attempt.
Carter’s potency has been diminished due to the mediocrity of his pack. He was ordinary against the Force and near anonymous at Newlands.
With their ballistic missiles failing to fire, the Crusaders have possessed the threat of a pop gun. However, Ludeke believes their class will surface in the face of adversity at Loftus on Friday.
‘There are reasons for their perceived struggles and all players go through that period. The world-class ones, like McCaw and Carter, are able to pick themselves up, and their desperation to secure a semi-final place makes Friday’s game a massive one tailor-made for them to do something special,’ Ludeke told keo.co.za.
‘It’s become a cliché, but form is temporary and class is permanent. They haven’t become bad players overnight. They’re still two of the world’s best, and if we don’t play well they have the capacity to punish us.’
Asked if he had observed methods which sides who have put McCaw and Carter in the shade have employed, Ludeke said: ‘It’s really not that complicated. If you secure your ball in contact and the work rate of your primary cleaners is up there, you have a good chance of ensuring that McCaw is less of a factor at the breakdown. We’ve struggled at times in that regard this season but I believe we’re getting it right more often now.
‘With regards to Carter, you can try your best by making sure you’re solid at the set phases and try to slow his service from the breakdown, but he is a special player who can make something from nothing, so you have to focus on the basics and trust the guys who have the experience of playing against and beating teams he’s been in.’
Ludeke continued by saying that he felt his side had the attacking variation to break down the second-best defensive unit in the tournament, but it would take tactical intelligence, patience and a sustained effort to oust the seven-time champions.
‘You have to have more than one weapon in your arsenal to break them down, like the Stormers showed last week,’ he said.
‘They [the Stormers] weren’t able to get their rolling maul going, but they adjusted well and were able to vary between attacks down the middle, in the wide channels or play for territory and back their defence to force turnovers. We’ll have to be equally adaptable.’
By Ryan Vrede