Monday, May 24, 2010


Former Springboks coach Jake White was bang on.
In a newspaper column written ahead of yesterday morning's Super 14 semifinal between the Crusaders and Bulls at Orlando Stadium, the 2007 World Cup-winner wrote the opening 15 minutes would be crucial to determining the outcome.
White noted the Springboks referred to making a blistering start as their "blitzkrieg", a ruse employed to shock their opponents off their feet in the opening minutes.
So it proved for the Bulls, a side that contained a number of key Springboks in Victor Matfield, Pierre Spies, Fourie du Preez and Morne Steyn in their 39-24 win.
They weathered an early Crusaders attack, wrestled the ball off them and scored an early try to No 8 Spies.
Within 10 minutes they were up 10-0.
The Crusaders struck back with a Richie McCaw try, but it was their inability to secure the Bulls' high kicks that poisoned their chances.
Rarely this season had the Crusaders suffered such a dreadful case of the dropsies and like a nasty disease, the malaise spread.
Fullback Colin Slade dropped the first one in the fifth minute and, encouraged by their uncertainty, the Bulls kept carpet bombing the men in red and black.
In comical fashion another kick ricocheted off Sam Whitelock's head and Zane Kirchner scored, while Kieran Read, Sean Maitland and Zac Guildford also fumbled high balls.
What was most frustrating for the Crusaders was that they knew the bombs would rain down on them.
"Their high kicks, we didn't take them and that put pres-sure on ourselves and we couldn't get away from that pressure," halfback Andy Ellis admitted.
"We knew that because it was kind of the story of their season.
"We had worked hard on it all week but when it comes to the game it is always a bit different."
Despite the Bulls' cracking start, the Crusaders remained confident they could survive: but chances were lost when Robbie Fruean threw a forward pass and Read created an opportunity when he drove within metres of the line before the ball squirted out of a ruck, it was hoofed well downfield and Spies almost scored instead.
Despite these traumas Maitland scored a fine try down the blindside from a scrum early in the second half, the right wing blasting through a weak tackle by Dewald Potgieter to close the gap to six points.
But the Bulls landed the knock-out punch with 15 minutes remaining, halfback du Preez scooting 28m down a narrow blindside from a scrum to score in the corner when he breezed past Read.
Minutes earlier Maitland had made a fine break down the middle, but a desperate ankle tap by Kirchner tripped him over.
"No, I didn't know he was there," Maitland said after the game.
"I knew du Preez was there but he just gave up and all of a sudden I felt this little hand tap me. I was pretty gutted."
They had other chances to score but the Crusaders could have no complaints about the result because they were unable to re-discover their impressive form from the previous two matches and made far too many errors.
This was an occasion that demanded playmaker Dan Carter to fire, but he was too passive in carrying the ball to the line.
Even veteran lock Brad Thorn was unable to make the expected impact and was replaced with 20 minutes remaining.

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