Monday, May 22, 2006
Saturday night’s clash against the Bulls is going to be an epic.
You’ve only got to look at the Bulls line-up and some of their performances to date to recognise that this is going to be a game full of real intensity and likely to be full of drama.
Like the Crusaders, the Bulls are a strong proud franchise and while we came away with a convincing victory against them two weeks ago in Pretoria Saturday will be a different encounter.
There’s a danger in taking any confidence from that victory because more often than not the team that loses learns the most from a game.
They’ll present us with different challenges and it’s up to us to recognise that and ensure we don’t stand still this week.
You can’t go believing things are going to happen as a matter of right or course. This game stands alone and only one team will walk away happy from Jade Stadium on Saturday night.
I believe the Bulls have broadened their game in recent years. They’ve addressed their conditioning and worked on their ability to play with width. The fact they can now muscle it and use the finishing powers of the likes of Bryan Habana makes them a tough prospect.
Some are calling what the Bulls have in front of them this week Mission Impossible. But you only need to look at recent results to see the home advantage and the travel factor don’t influence results as much as they may have in the past.
Look at our result in Pretoria, the Bulls’ big win in Cape Town and the Hurricanes upset in Sydney. Every year with Super rugby the home advantage becomes more and more irrelevant.
And as for the travel factor, we showed last weekend that a five-day turnaround after a long flight back from Africa had little impact as we finished stronger than the Brumbies.
What I was most impressed with last Friday was how our players stayed focused on the task despite the defensive tactics of the Brumbies and the conditions, which were vastly different to what they had experienced recently.
Had we not performed to that level we wouldn’t be here. While it’s an achievement making the play-offs, the reality is it’s not the end we’re looking for.
We hoped we’d get to this point and the public expectation that we’ll go further is no different to ours. Now that we’re here we know it’s not enough.
We are also acutely aware that if we don’t make the most of the time on the field come Saturday night there will be nothing else.
Ensuring there is something beyond this weekend is not going to be straightforward and it would be great to have you there at Jade Stadium helping us achieve that.