PREVIEW: Crusaders v Bulls

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Thursday, March 22, 2018    Getty Images

Match details: Crusaders v Bulls, Friday 23 March, 7.35pm, AMI Stadium, Christchurch. TICKETS.

Played: 25
Won: Crusaders 15, Bulls 10
Last time: Crusaders 62, Bulls 24 (6 May 2017)

The Crusaders started their season with victories over the Chiefs and Stormers at AMI Stadium but have struggled away from home with close losses to the Hurricanes and Highlanders. The Bulls started their season in impressive fashion with a 21-19 victory over the Hurricanes but have recorded three straight losses since then. They were hugely impressive in the first half against the Chiefs last week, leading 14-28 before being overrun 41-28.

The Crusaders received some welcome news this week with the inclusion of captain Sam Whitelock and vice-captain Ryan Crotty in their starting fifteen. Both players were sorely missed in last week’s loss to the Highlanders and have passed concussion protocol checks this week to take their place in the line-up. The news wasn’t so good for Matt Todd who has been unable to recover in time from a rib injury and will be replaced in the number seven jersey by rising star Billy Harmon.

Normally known as one of the more conservative South African Super Rugby teams, the Bulls have unleashed a potent attacking game in 2018. Inspired by former All Blacks coach John Mitchell, the Bulls have carved teams open with their clinical attack from set-piece and willingness to run the ball from their own half. It took just three minutes for the Bulls to cross the Chiefs line last week in the first of their four tries before succumbing to an impressive Chiefs comeback. They will be eager to stay in the contest for the full 80 minutes this weekend.

The Bulls have lost their last eight games in New Zealand, a stretch which began with a 22-point loss to the Crusaders.


There’s no harder assignment in Super Rugby than taking on the defending champions on their home turf. The Crusaders will be hurting after two losses and eager to make a big statement against the Bulls. John Mitchell’s side cannot be discounted though. They dominated the Chiefs last week for long periods and will be desperate to get something out of their tour to New Zealand. Expect the Crusaders to clinch this one, but the Bulls will pose them plenty of problems.
David Havili, Manasa Mataele, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Mitch Hunt, Mitchell Drummond, Jordan Taufua, Billy Harmon, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, Tim Perry.
Reserves: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Oli Jager, Quinten Strange, Tom Sanders, Bryn Hall, Brett Cameron, Braydon Ennor

Bulls: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Burger Odendaal, Divan Roussouw, Handre Pollard, Embrose Papier, Tim Agaba, Hanro Liebenberg, Roelof Smit, Lood De Jager, Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane, Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman
Reserves: Adriaan Strauss, Lizo Gqoboka, Frans van Wyk, Hendre Stassen, Marco van Standen, Ivan van Zyl, Manie Libbok, John-Ben Kotze