Saders gave Bulls an edge

Frans Ludeke intimated that the Crusaders’ liberal disclosure of their attacking strategy aided their preparation significantly.

In the build up to the semi-final at Orlando stadium the Crusaders made no secret that they intended to play a high-tempo expansive brand of rugby. It had nearly gained them victory at Loftus a fortnight ago, and in their post-match press conference of that match their head coach Todd Blackadder told the media that they had found the blueprint to beat the Bulls.

Those comments were made to look silly tonight, when his charges failed to make the inroads they had in Pretoria thanks largely to an impressive defensive display from the Bulls.

‘It helped that we knew what their strategy would be,’ Ludeke told ‘They didn’t offer any surprises but that didn’t make it any easier, we still had to defend well through 80 minutes and we did that.’

On attack the Bulls varied between ball- in-hand attacks, punching up directly and in the wide channels when opportunities presented themselves. However, they gained the most success from hoisting a numerous of up-and-unders, under which the Crusaders’ receivers looked decidedly vulnerable.

‘The strategy worked well on the day. The kickers were really accurate and our chasers put them under huge pressure. When we forced turnovers we had numbers and were able to capitalise. It all worked out nicely tonight,’ said Ludeke.

Captain Victor Matfield was liberal in his praise of the collective, but made special mention of the efforts of his halfback pair’s contribution to victory.

Flyhalf Morne Steyn missed just one in nine attempts at goal, while Fourie du Preez’s second half try gave the Bulls the ascendency which they never relinquished.

‘I said to Fourie afterwards: “The big players come through in the big games” and he turned the tide for us. That try put us out of reach,’ Matfield said. ‘And Morne has taken some criticism for his form this season, but he showed his value tonight.’

Matfield said that the Crusaders’ hectic travel schedule ‘must have’ had an impact on their ability to sustain their effort through 80 minutes, explaining: ‘They are a champion side, who won’t look for excuses, but they can’t play it down, it would have been a factor. It’s testament to their class that they were still able to come out and play the way they did.

‘That’s why you have to get a home semi-final. It just improves your chances so much. Travelling like that can be very, very draining.’

Ludeke said their experience in preparing for finals would stand them in good stead, and stressed that the key to success would be consistency in that preparation.

‘We must over-hype the game. It’s about having a clear picture of what we want to achieve this week and focusing on what has made us successful to date.’

By Ryan Vrede, at Orlando Stadium