Travel-weary Crusaders to pick themselves up




The Crusaders, despite missing their connecting flight from Johannesburg to Durban, where they will base themselves ahead of their Super 14 semi-final showdown with the rampaging Bulls on Saturday, are confident they can pick themselves up this week.

After watching their home ground advantage in the play-offs wiped away by the marauding Bulls (with a record 92-3 drubbing of the Reds), the Crusaders suddenly had to travel across the Tasman Sea to Australia and then faced the long haul across the Indian Ocean to South Africa – where they will face the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.

If it wasn’t enough to have spent nearly 36 hours en route to South Africa, they were further delayed by customs officials in Johannesburg and missed the connecting flight to Durban.

However, they are determined not to allow these hurdles to become their focus this week.

In fact it is not so much the long travel and delays that concern the six-time Super Rugby champions.

It is more their recent slump in form – back-to-back defeats to a fired-up Brumbies outfit in Canberra and to the determined Chiefs in Christchurch.

Crusaders coach Robbie Deans conceded that his team had not been at their peak over the last couple of games, but he expected the players would pick themselves up for the semi-final in Pretoria.

“It doesn’t concern us where we have to play, to be honest. It’s just great to be there,” he said of the fact that his team had to travel back to South African after it looked like they would top the table just a fortnight ago.

“We’re really looking forward to making the most of the opportunity.”

Crusaders captain Richie McCaw also shrugged off the supposed travel bug, saying that they need to look ahead and not back to the lost opportunities of the last two weeks.

“I always knew after [last] Friday’s game [the 30-24 defeat at the hands of the Chiefs] that it was a possibility [that they would travel to South Africa] and we needed a couple of results to go our way,” he said.

“We’ve only got ourselves to blame for leaving the door open.

“But that’s history now and obviously we’ve got to get excited about playing [in the semi-final].”

Deans said he wasn’t particularly surprised by the Bulls’ massive scoreline against the Reds.

“It’s a cauldron that’s unique, Loftus Versfeld Stadium,” Deans said.

“It’s a famous venue and there’s been some pretty remarkable games there.”

Deans said the Bulls had produced “some remarkable rugby” and he’d watched “every minute of the match”.


365 Digital

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