Stopping Steyn crucial for Crusaders in playoff
First five-eighth Morne Steyn is among the Bulls' smallest soldiers but the one the Crusaders should dread the most tonight in the sudden-death Super match in Christchurch.
Steyn is no Dan Carter; he doesn't possess the Crusaders No 10's running game, ball-handling skills or status, yet the Springbok is perfect for the Bulls.
The 28-year-old has been representing the Pretoria-based side since 2005 and this week Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder recollected how the playmaker destroyed his hopes of winning a Super Rugby title in his first year as boss in 2009.
"He was just on fire and killed us, really," Blackadder lamented as he reflected on that semifinal in Pretoria.
"The way they play their game, he is very much a ‘pocket 10'. He can kick goals from anywhere and he is a great organiser."
Steyn amassed 21 points, including 4 drop goals, as the Bulls waltzed home 36-23 and when the Crusaders stumbled in the following year's semi in Soweto he hoofed over 24 in the 39-24 victory.
The Springboks playmaker, who employs fellow Springbok Francois Hougaard as his distributor, will not have Loftus Versfeld's thin air to carry his shots but his presence should have the Crusaders' skin crawling whenever he lines up a kick this evening.
"Last week we just gave too many penalties away - in these games the most disciplined side usually wins," Blackadder acknowledged.
So there it is. And if there is any team you don't want to offer kickable penalties to it is one that contains Steyn.
Although he doesn't possess the long-range potential of Sharks utility Frans Steyn, Morne can be a nightmare for opponents over a shorter distance.
The competition's leading scorer (225 points) this season he has scored 1198 during his Super career and his 24 drop goals are a tournament record.
The Crusaders' task of navigating into the semi will be complex if they fail to heed the warnings of South African referee Jaco Peyper at Christchurch's AMI Stadium. Blackadder has already pleaded his side's case by stating his props have been instructed at training not to put their hands on the deck during scrums and anyone entering a ruck needs to be cautious about remaining on his feet.
When the sides last met, in Pretoria on April 7, Steyn caned the Crusaders with six penalties and two conversions as the visitors unleashed a bold, and ultimately futile, running game during the 32-20 loss.
It would be folly for the Crusaders to utilise the wrong strategy again.
Being caged inside their own half will be anathema for both sides. Dan Carter and Steyn will instead lob long kicks into space and whenever they get the territory gain required, the games within games will begin.
The Crusaders could have done worse this week than to revisit the footage of last year's 27-0 win over the Bulls in Timaru.
Constructed around their eagerness at the breakdown and a very effective defensive lineout, they discovered the Bulls had no appetite for the fight in the cold and mud.
"We weren't accurate enough, the basics stuff cost us that day," Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said this week. "We let them get their way in the game - front-foot ball, quick ball from broken situations."