Crusaders on a mission

16 May 2010 - 00:11 By Simnikiwe Xabanisa

Following their thumping of the Brumbies 40-22 on Friday, the Crusaders have earned themselves a shot at avenging what they felt was a home-town decision in their loss to the Bulls last weekend.

Having finished fourth on the Super 14 log, Todd Blackadder's men will now play the Bulls at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.

The New Zealanders were incensed at SA referee Marius Jonker's decision to award the Bulls a try in the 81st minute of their titanic clash after there was a hint of a forward pass from Bandise Maku to try-scorer Francois Hougaard.

Given that they thoroughly outplayed Frans Ludeke's side at Loftus Versfeld, the fact that the game is being played away from the Bulls' fortress should give them the confidence that they can finish what they started in Pretoria.

The possibility that the Bulls' starting line-up might be a little rusty from the "bye" Ludeke gave them this week by resting them against the Stormers also makes things all the more promising for the tournament's serial winners.

But they are going to have to overcome the debilitating effects of having travelled back home to Christchurch from South Africa to play their last round-robin match, and returning to the republic for their semifinal.

There is a lot riding on the fixture, with the seven-time champion Crusaders trying to prevent the Bulls from dominating the game in the same way by winning their third Super 14 title in four years.

In barnstorming their way into the last four, the Crusaders were joined by the Waratahs, who cut loose to beat the in-form Hurricanes 32-16 in Sydney on Friday.

Many would have expected the Reds - whose exciting play made them the form team in Australia at times and also the team to beat in the competition - to have made the final four.

But after losses to the Brumbies and the Hurricanes, Ewen McKenzie's team could only finish fifth after a nail-biting 38-36 win against the Highlanders yesterday.

Provided they stay together - prop Laurie Weeks has already been lost to the Melbourne Rebels, and there's a lot of speculation about flyhalf Quade Cooper - the Queenslanders should be one of the teams to watch next season.

The Waratahs' making the semifinals was a classic case of the tortoise and the hare.

They relied on a good pack and defence earlier in the tournament, before their attack came to the party in the latter stages.

The Sydneysiders will also feel they have something to prove in the semifinals, after complaining that by resting their entire starting line-up the Bulls had cost them the opportunity to host a semifinal.