Bulls embrace Christchurch road trip challenge
'It's about who handles pressure'DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
The Bulls have no fears about taking on the Crusaders in Christchurch in their Super Rugby eliminator on Saturday, backing their ability on the road despite a patchy travel record this year.
The Bulls completed a strong South African presence in the playoffs, beating the Lions 37-20 to join the table-topping Stormers and the Sharks in the tournament's business end.
Their reward is a tough assignment against their old enemy, the seven-time champion Crusaders.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke believes his team has the game for the occasion, even if it means overcoming a long trip to New Zealand.
"All that happened through the season is now irrelevant," Ludeke said.
"It is about teams that can handle the pressure - it doesn't matter if you play home or away.
"We've shown that we can travel and we need to focus on our own game plan and we need to be accurate."
But Ludeke's confidence isn't matched by the Bulls' record on the road in Australia and New Zealand in May.
They squeaked past the Melbourne Rebels 41-35, edged the disappointing Waratahs 27-24 in Sydney before dropping their two game sin New Zealand - losing 16-11 to the Highlanders in Dunedin and 28-22 to the Chiefs in Hamilton
The Bulls, South Africa's most successful side with three titles in the last five years, can point to a victory over the Crusaders this year, winning a nail-biter 32-30 in Pretoria in May.
Ludeke concedes his team will have to lift their game in certain areas in Christchurch on Saturday night, against a Crusaders side that seems to be shifting through the gears at the right time of the season.
Ludeke wasn't happy with the scrum work his pack showed against the Lions and knows this is an area of strength for the Crusaders.
"I think in the scrums they (the Lions) really came at us and I think we weren't good enough and accurate enough there," Ludeke said.
"There were some unforced errors that broke our rhythm a bit, but the second half was much more clinical.
"We didn't allow the Lions to really get going especially from drives and penalties. We cleaned up our act discipline-wise as well.
"So it was almost like a good curtain raiser if you can call it that."
The Crusaders-Bulls clash on Saturday night will be immediately followed by the Reds hosting the Sharks in Brisbane.
The Stormers and second-placed Chiefs have byes this weekend.
Meanwhile, the Sharks face making their trip to Brisbane without the classy
Springbok pair of Patrick Lambie and Frans Steyn.
Lambie aggravated an ankle injury during the 34-15 win over the Cheetahs on Saturday, while centre Steyn was ruled out of the remainder of the competition due to a Sanzar ruling - he was signed by the union after the April 1 transfer deadline.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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