Who will win the big moments?

Thu, 19 Jul 2012 06:42
Large ralapelle tackles guildford

Playing knock-out rugby is about getting the basics right and winning the big moments, just like in Test matches.

Playing knock-out rugby is about getting the basics right and winning the big moments, just like in Test matches.

These, according to Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, will be the determining factors when his team take on the seven-time champion Crusaders in the first round of play-off matches in Christchurch on Saturday.

Ludeke, speaking to this website from the team's base in New Zealand, said there are many aspects that go into winning in knock-out games.

"I know there are big moments in a game and you want to create those moments, as well as finishing them off [scoring points]," the Bulls mentor said.

"However, they are built on a foundation of doing the basics right.

"You must create that platform by getting your set pieces right. When you are under pressure near your own line, you want to ensure your No.9 and No.10 have plenty of time and they have good quality ball to clear the lines. When you are in opposition territory you want to pile on the pressure and use those opportunities.

"The main thing is that the basics, your set pieces, must be 100 percent.

"It is also a lot about discipline ... turnovers, penalties, those things - they can give the opposition momentum and the initiative. Momentum can change easily in the game, where you get three points on the board or stretch your lead just after you have scored a try."

Ludeke said it will require a very big effort against a quality team.

"One or two good plays won't do it," he told this website, adding: "You will have to have a concerted effort for 80 minutes. You can never let up, even if you are ahead and the flipside is when you make a mistake you must put it behind you and get back in the game quickly."

What complicates matters even more for the Bulls is that the Crusaders have a very good all-round game.

"They have a solid pack and they do have the ability to play a direct game," Ludeke said, adding: "However, they can also play a tactical [kicking] game and from broken play they do have the ability to score tries. The key for them is balance .. they have that balance in their game."

These two teams, who have met four times in play-off matches before almost inevitably in tight battles - even though the Bulls have won the last three encounter, all semifinals on South African soil.

"It is likely to be very tight and the pressure will be on in a big way, so you will have to be very accurate ... as it will be a game of Test rugby intensity."

In big games like this experience is another important factor and here the Bulls have lost a large lump of the experience that saw them win in 2007, 2009 and 2010 - players like Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw, Gary Botha and Gurthrö Steenkamp.

However, the Bulls feel they have enough in that department to match a very good Crusaders team - with 11 players from the matchday 22 have won a Super Rugby title before.

"There are a good number of players who have gone through the mill with Victor [Matfield] and Fourie [du Preez] in these situations," Ludeke said of players like Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, Wynand Olivier, Morné Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies, Dewald Potgieter, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Dean Greyling.

"They understand what it takes, what their mindset should be and what the build up is like ... ensure you don't over exert before Saturday and keep the energy in the tank.

"We retained enough of that experience and you can see it is rubbing off on the rest of the group - that is not a factor ... we have ticked that box."

Asked if he felt there was enough composure within the squad to cope with the occasion Ludeke said: "There were a few occasions this season where the team was in these situations where it [the result] was positive and negative.

"The positive boosts you and you learn from the negatives.

"We know how important this game is and we believe that if everything we have done this season can come together [in this game] we will have a great chance to get a [good] result."

By Jan de Koning

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