Super Rugby 2018
Crusaders vs Bulls
Final Score: Crusaders 33 – Bulls 14
Referee: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Richard Kelly (New Zealand)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand
This is a rough weekend. With limited time to watch games live, or as recordings; do my match reviews; entertain over-nighting visitors until they left on Saturday morning; then fetch more visitors from bus-stations – a four hour round-trip; watch some enthralling cricketing controversy; and still get a moment or two to sleep – my match reviews are all a little late, and a little shorter than usual.
Some, such as this one, are limited to some general comments about the game and the impression each team left with me.
This was always going to be a difficult one for the Bulls. The last game of a tour, against the reigning champions, and a team that is very much a work-in-progress, nobody expected them to win. (Except, perhaps, a couple of those Die-Hards we have spoken of before.)
The Bulls made too many errors in the rainy conditions to present too much of a problem to the Crusaders, who were intent on ending their two-match losing streak. The locals are used to playing in the wet muddy conditions of New Zealand, the Bulls are not.
The persistent rain throughout made handling difficult, with the Crusaders definitely handling the conditions better. Yet it was the Bulls who made the least handling errors, just 19, despite their intent on throwing the ball around. The South Africans also tried to play a wider, passing game, and passed the ball 135 times, while the Crusaders passed it just 82 times. The Bulls made 120 good passes, with 15 going astray, while the ‘Saders made just 57 good passes, fully 25 pass attempts went astray.
The Crusaders focussed on playing the ball close, carrying it close in and using the offload and hand-to-hand movement to minimise errors in the wet. They kicked the ball well. They took the ball to ground in the ruck just 53 times, and retained the ball on 51 occasions. The Bulls, once their attempts at taking the ball wide started to miss-fire, took the ball to ground 81 times, and lost possession just 3 times.
The ongoing errors by the Bulls meant that they did not convert their chances into points, although it was pleasing to see the growth in this team as they actually created chances. In contrast, the Crusaders were ruthlessly clinical, coming away with points every time they got into the end-zone.
Watching the Bulls’ intent on playing off the front-foot, declining penalty shots at the posts in favour of the lineout and maul option showed a team that is moving away from the instinctive safety-first options of their boring old past. This is a pleasing new Bulls outfit that is showing attacking enterprise, and a willingness to have a go.
They will need to be less predictable, though! When they set the attacking line-out the resultant maul is all-too predictable, and thus easy to defend. They need to bring some variations into their lineout game. A quick maul around the back of the lineout, a maul around the front, perhaps opening a gap in the middle – there are things they can do, but do not.
From a South African perspective, it was good to see the Bulls stay in the game and to play adventurous rugby. From the New Zealanders perspective, the Crusaders have bounced back from their losing streak, and that will worry some of the teams they still have to face.
Tries: Barrett, Taylor, Goodhue 2, Bridge
Cons: Hunt 4
Yellow Card: Perry
Tries: Ismaiel, Van Staden
Cons: Pollard 2
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Manasa Mataele, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Mitchell Hunt, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Tim Perry
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Braydon Ennor
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (c), 11 Divan Rossouw, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Hendre Stassen, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Johnny Kotze