Yip, the Crusaders are on a downward slide...............................NOT!
I think the most telling part of this game a few minutes into the second half when the TV cameras panned the Crusaders bench. It was like an All Black roll call! For that awesome blitz at the start of the second half it was the likes of Mauger, Robinson etc whom sparked it. A great show of depth.
Now we all know this Bulls team is terrible. That tackling (or lack of) was pathetic! How the Boks think they deserve an extra team is completely beyond me. At times the play was surreal. Almost like a training run where the opposition was there as a claytons team, allowing the Crusaders to practice a few moves before the big game.
Actually there's very little point talking about the Crusaders performance. It was one of those games where it would be easy to wax lyrical about the superhuman virtues of the home team....forgetting for a moment how woeful their opposition was. Jannie De Beer was a 'Bok starter last year? Good grief!
The only other real talking point after the game is the extent of the injury to Mighty Mehrts. We all know once you reach the semi's (of which the Crusaders are now assured of a place) anything can happen. All previous form goes out the window for the performance on the day.
Remembering that, a serious injury to Mehrts would almost certainly spell the end of the Crusade for a Threepeat. Mauger is a promising player, but he hasn't yet got the composure to carry a team to the title. In a couple of years I think he will. But not yet.
Another fear is the knock to Andrew's confidence after what seemed a painful injury. In his early years he had a fragile frame & his focus would sometimes be diverted if pounded badly. But last year in particular he showed a nasty streak....the finger to the Loftus crowd when under the hammer. This is a Mehrt's made of sterner stuff. I'II reckon he'll be OK.
I'm writing this before any of the Kiwi sides have played in South Africa this weekend.
With the performance of the Bulls in particular, but also all the other 'Bok sides, it would be VERY easy to think that none of the South African S12 franchises are particularly wonderful. When you come against them you might as well add the 4 points to the points column. WRONG!
The Cats proved all those theories wrong last weekend. We've all sat back watching the Bok sides travel here, play the odd good game (Stormers), look competitive, but generally under perform. Travel is a key part of that.
Now boys & girls its NZ's turn to travel. If any of the Kiwi sides think they can turn up and just beat these guys at home they are in for a nasty shock. The fatigue factor of arriving at sea level in Durban/Cape Town, then flying again to the high veldt Jo'Burg/Pretoria, after an enormously long flight from NZ/Oz is horrendous.
The Crusader performance against the Cats was so out of character, the factors in the loss where;
a committed home team wanting to save face for South African rugby;
a Crusader team not fully on their game
When you look through the names of the Bok teams, even though they obviously lack depth in their rugby, is the number of high quality players the Cats, Stormers, Sharks have. Before the Cats game last weekend RugbyHeads commented on the fact that the Cats had a Springbok back row. Each team has good players. Its only a matter of time before they put it all together.
Therefore beware Blues, Highlanders and Reds, you ain't made the semi's yet! It might not happen this weekend but it might next! The Bok's aren't as bad as they have seemed.