Should the Bulls hierarchy asks its fans why they need to provide 12 000 discounted tickets for a decent crowd to turn up at Loftus, those supporters will point to this.
The Bulls were comprehensively outplayed at home for a second time this season, slumping to a 13-45 loss to a rampant Crusaders on Friday night.
Winning rugby and teams bring souls to a stadium and the home side remains far too inconsistent to garner such loyalty.
The Crusaders were compelling – even if they weren’t quite at their best – in torturing a poor Bulls defence to kick of their SA safari in ideal fashion.
Who was the star in this match?
Crusaders flyhalf Richie Mo’unga was simply outstanding as the man pulling the strings for the defending champions. He showcased his nifty footwork and attacking ability in scoring his brace in the first half, the second a brilliant piece of skill. But it was really his kicking from hand that stood out. Not only did he gain territory effectively, the two pinpoint cross-kicks within seconds that led to wing Sevu Reece’s hat-trick were simply breathtaking.
Key moments and themes
- Momentum from the outset is very important, particularly against a ruthless side like the Crusaders and the Bulls just never had that. They were unlucky to concede Mo’unga’s first try when his opposite number, Handre Pollard, was stumped by a terrible bounce. However, that sequence seemed to knock the stuffing out of the hosts already, particularly their captain, who went on to have his poorest game of the season.
- Errors continued to pile up for the Bulls, something illustrated by Mo’unga’s second score, when flanker Marco van Staden did well to steal the ball on the ground, only to waywardly rip it out of the ruck and into the Crusaders’ playmaker’s hand. Yet the most glaring weakness was simply the Bulls’ first-time tackling, which was woeful. They missed 27.
- Given how effectively the Sharks had repelled the Crusaders last week by being physical and robust on defence, it was baffling that the Bulls tried to speed things up. It is generally a risk for any SA side to try and beat a New Zealand team in such a manner and suicidal when an attack misfires as the Bulls’ did. There was little structure and patience. It didn’t help that their set-pieces were inconsistent.
- The Crusaders’ variety on attack was notable, but the biggest feature was their kicking game. Kicking is wrongfully perceived as a byproduct of teams that run out of ideas. The ‘Saders use it as a legitimate attacking weapon, something South African side still can’t seem to master.
Bulls – Try: Burger Odendaal. Conversion: Handre Pollard. Penalties: Pollard (2).
Crusaders – Tries: Sevu Reece (3), Richie Mo’unga (2), Mitch Dunshea, Scott Barrett. Conversions: Mo’unga (5).