Can the Vodacom Bulls make Vodacom Super Rugby history for a second successive weekend in New Zealand when they face the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday morning?
That is what they will be aiming for against a hurt and dangerous seven-time champion side at AMI Stadium. Yes, it may sound funny, but the Crusaders are still without a win in 2013 (they have only played twice). The last time they lost their first two matches, was in 2005.
On the other hand, the Vodacom Bulls have won all three thus far this season and are one of only three unbeaten teams left in the competition.
On Saturday, the Vodacom Bulls will try to beat the Crusaders for the first time ever in New Zealand, but they will also aim to win back to back Vodacom Super Rugby matches in New Zealand for the first time ever.
In 1996, in the pre-franchise days and playing as Northern Transvaal, the team from Pretoria beat the Crusaders at the old Lancaster Park by 32-18. Since then, they’ve lost in Christchurch eight times, including twice in knock-out matches (2006 and 2012), and once in Timaru. The average score in these matches was 37-15 to the Cantabrians.
The closest the Vodacom Bulls ever came to upsetting the Crusaders in Christchurch, was in 2009, when they lost 13-16 despite scoring two tries to one.
Frans Ludeke, who made only one change to his team for Saturday’s match, said his team would like to emulate their first-ever win in New Zealand over the Blues last Sunday.
“We got the momentum we wanted on tour with the good win against the Blues,” said Ludeke.
“By naming the same side bar the injury, we hope to continue the way we finished against the Blues. We will need a good performance against a very good side.”
Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies said: “We came close here in the past and now must try and get that rare win in Christchurch.”
The teams are:
Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Tom Marshall, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Johnny McNicholl, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (captain), Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Samuel Whitelock, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Replacements: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Tom Donnelly, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Tyler Bleyendaal, Adam Whitelock.
Vodacom Bulls: Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Wynand Olivier, Jürgen Visser, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies (captain), Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Frik Kirsten, Willie Wepener, Morné Mellett. Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Werner Kruger, Grant Hattingh, Jacques Potgieter, Francois Hougaard, Louis Fouché, Jan Serfontein.
Head to head (since 1998)
Crusaders won 13, Vodacom Bulls 7
669 points for Crusaders, 468 for Vodacom Bulls
74 tries for Crusaders, 45 for Vodacom Bulls
Kick-off: SA Time: 08h35 (SA time)
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
Television match official: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)