Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Crusaders to "relish the challenge" (ABs.com)

A Rebel Sport Super 14 semifinal in front of the braying masses at Pretoria has the Crusaders' pulses racing.

Crusaders second five-eighth Aaron Mauger said his team relished the challenge of playing in one of the most intimidating venues in world rugby.

"We'll probably get to play in front of 60,000 people. It'll be quite exciting for everyone involved.

"It's something none of us have ever done before, play a semifinal over here.

"There's a good buzz around the group, it's something different and I'm sure we won't need any extra motivation."

The Crusaders were all set to host their eighth home semifinal before the Bulls pulled off their astonishing 92-3 defeat of the Queensland Reds to claim second-place hosting rights on points differential. Mauger said the Bulls had clearly struck a rich vein of form and that trying to quieten their rampant style -- along with the hostile crowd -- would be crucial on Sunday morning (NZ time).

He didn't think the jaunt against the Reds would have taken an edge of intensity off the Bulls, saying they will be determined to maintain their rage.

"When you're scoring tries and running off each other like that, it doesn't matter who the opposition is," Mauger said. "You get a lot of confidence from the guys around you and they'll be riding that wave at the moment.

"Somehow we've got to try to stop that momentum."

Straight after their record win, Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer put to rest any prospect of his team slackening off this week.

"These guys don't live in the past. We'll start looking at next Saturday on Monday," Meyer said. There may be some good news in store for the Crusaders, with Bulls halfback and most likely game-breaker, Fourie du Preez, in doubt because of a shoulder injury. Du Preez suffered damage during his brilliant personal display in the 40-19 defeat of the Blues a week ago and there was a re-occurrence when he came off the bench against the Reds. "I'm worried about him," Meyer said. "He doesn't look in great shape but he's so gutsy, so committed, that he'll probably be right."

Just to make their preparation more taxing, the Crusaders' journey from Sydney to Durban was lengthened by nearly three hours when they missed a connection in Johannesburg.

They arrived at 9pm local team with the players unanimous in their desire to seek out a hotel bed. Until Friday, they are preparing at Umhlanga Rocks, the resort area north of Durban. The sunny climes and relaxed atmosphere make it a favoured spot for the All Blacks and most of the New Zealand Super 14 franchises, whether they are playing in Durban or the high veldt. However, the Blues, who face the Sharks in the other semifinal, at Durban on Sunday (NZ time), are residing in the less-salubrious central city.
Look at those pretty kids. Under-21 World Cup 2002...what a long journey!
Qu'ils sont mimis, Coupe du Monde des moins de 21 ans en 2002...quel parcours!

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