Few people give the Bulls a snowball’s chance in hell to beat the pace-setting Crusaders at Loftus tonight.
As unlikely as a victory may sound, there is a chance, and the rugby gods have dished up some bizarre results this season. A Bulls victory may not be quite as far-fetched, provided they find the same groove that earned them polished triumphs over the Sharks, Lions and Stormers.
The home team may have the odds stacked against them, but they have a few things going for them. There is no doubting the Crusaders’ abilities to rip the opposition apart on attack, while they are equally adept in defence.
But the Bulls can target a few weaknesses in the Crusaders that can give them good rewards tonight.
The Crusaders’ ill-discipline is an area the Bulls can exploit with captain Handre Pollard possessing a long-range boot that can punish the visitors. The Crusaders have conceded 114 penalties this season, the second most behind the Sunwolves.
The Bulls will be looking to administer a slow-poison game plan by holding onto possession and grinding their way over the advantage line, and frustrate the Crusaders.
The hosts will have to be patient, which is something they have lacked in some of their matches this season.
The Bulls will rely heavily on Pollard, not only in terms of his goal kicking but also as their tactical rudder. Pollard will have to be at his best both with the boot and through his decision making.
The Springbok pivot will need time and space to be able to control the game to the best of his ability, and this is where the Bulls pack will play a major role.
The Bulls pack has been fortified with the return of hooker Schalk Brits and lock Jason Jenkins. The duo will add further firepower upfront with Brits adding experience in the front row and some attacking flair among the forwards.
Jenkins will provide more oomph in the lineouts, adding to the Bulls’ strength in the set pieces. Which brings us to the final piece of the puzzle that could give the Bulls the edge tonight – the scrums.
The Bulls have been growing in stature in the scrums with prop Trevor Nyakane and Lizo Gqoboka developing into a formidable combination.
The Sharks showed in they 21-all draw with the Crusaders how scrum domination can disrupt the nine-time champions.
If the Bulls find their rhythm and they get the rub of the green, the snowball might just have a chance, if not, they can expect hell at Loftus.