A switch in tackling technique from the Crusaders and a shocking night for Morne Steyn ensured the Bulls were shipped back to South Africa in double quick time on Saturday night.
Conscious of thwarting the South Africans' momentum by attacking their upper-body region during their ball carries, the Crusaders cleverly knocked them out of the Super preliminary final by assigning defenders to wrap-up the ball at AMI Stadium.
"That was something we talked about, just to lift our body height and hit their middle rather than go down low," Crusaders lock Luke Romano admitted afterwards.
"Obviously if you tie up the ball you get body contact and drive them back in the tackle."
Unable to create clean linebreaks by unloading quickly or recycle fast possession were just several problems that left the Bulls' hopes of advancing into the semis in tatters.
On several occasions the Crusaders ripped the ball free and although flanker Dewald Potgieter burst over for a converted try from a rolling maul in the second half the Bulls' drives were largely negated.
"If you don't match that they are going to take you to school and run all over you. It was just the mental attitude of the guys building into the game and how we did it on the field showed real character," Romano added.
"Discipline was a big thing as well, not to give those penalties to allow Morne [Steyn] to kick those as well. It certainly helped."
Referee Jaco Peyper caned the Bulls in the penalty count; it leaned 5-0 towards the Crusaders in the opening stanza and loosehead prop Dean Greyling was unlucky not to be yellow-carded for a cynical offside, while first five-eighth and ace goal kicker Steyn had a shocker.
Rarely have New Zealanders witnessed the Springbok make so many unforced errors; a duffed 22m restart and punt were the more glaring blunders.
The Crusaders' kicking game was also aimless on occasion with Dan Carter, who kicked 23 points - including a right-footed drop goal - struggling to find touch several times and Israel Dagg being sucked into attempting an ineffective chip kick.
There was plenty to savour about Carter's kick, however; he propped, spun and nailed it close to the sticks.
"I thought I might hit a couple of guys in front of me but I managed to get one. Three points and to keep the scoreboard ticking over is important," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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