How Bulls plan to raise their game against Crusaders
If they are to register their second win of the campaign‚ the Bulls must find a way to achieve something they have failed to do in 22 years when they take on Super Rugby defending champions Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday.
The Bulls won the first meeting between the two in New Zealand in 1996, but the Crusaders have won all 10 home matches against the men from Pretoria since then with an average margin of 22 points.
The competition’s most successful teams face each other going through difficult times, with the Bulls on the back of three successive defeats to the Lions‚ Reds and Chiefs while the Crusaders lost to the Hurricanes and Highlanders over the past two weekends.
Faced with this mammoth task against the Crusaders‚ who are on a rebound‚ Bulls coach John Mitchell has asked his charges to be on top of their game for the match.
"It is not going to be easy to beat them in their own backyard but to be able to do that we need to outwork them‚" Mitchell said.
"They also have a tremendous work ethic as a team. We are not on this journey to become a better team because it is easy‚ so we must be prepared to play for the full 80 minutes and play every big moment to the best of our ability."
In their previous meeting during round 11 last season in Pretoria‚ the Crusaders showed no mercy by thrashing the Bulls 62-24 where they outscored them by 10 tries to three with Jack Goodhue leading the way with a brace.
Jesse Kriel‚ Jamba Ulengo and Jan Serfontein scored tries for the Bulls, which were all converted by Francois Brummer, while Tian Schoeman added a penalty.
Things have changed at the Bulls since that drubbing, with Mitchell in charge at Loftus where he has taken over from Nollis Marais. They have shown good signs with players such as Handrè Pollard‚ Travis Ismaiel‚ Jesse Kriel and Warrick Gelant.
The other player to look out for is scrumhalf Embrose Papier, who impressed from the bench in the loss against the Chiefs last weekend.
Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson made five changes to his starting line-up with the return of captain Sam Whitelock and vice-captain Ryan Crotty from their concussions to replace Luke Romano in the second row and Tim Bateman at inside centre.