PRETORIA – From champs to chumps! That is the sad tale of Bulls rugby.
Not since the disastrous season of 2008 under Frans Ludeke have the Loftus Versfeld faithful turned their backs on their team.
And last night it was justified as their beloved Bulle were put to the sword by a near flawless performance from the Crusaders who posted a record defeat on the Bulls at home.
The 10-try blitzkrieg by the New Zealanders not only stretched their unbeaten streak to 10 matches this season but it also brought to an end the ugly chapter of the Crusaders not having won in South Africa’s capital in nine years.
Ironically it was the Crusaders, in their last win at Loftus prior to last night, who boasted of putting up the second most points against the Bulls at their home ground and that was in their 54-19 win in 2008.
It was in that very year that the Crusaders won their last Super Rugby title and as they go about rekindling the glory days, very few if any can doubt that the men from Christchurch are walking the golden path to their coronation as Southern hemisphere kings.
While the Crusaders marvel at the devastation of the cull they have left on their successful African expedition -, they beat the Cheetahs 48-21 last weekend – the once mighty and almost unbeatable Bulls are now in crisis with their season officially in tatters.
Everything about the Bulls this year has almost been a mirror reflection of 2008, from their fans walking out on them to the soulless and inept performances on the field.
Last night the Bulls sunk to a new low not just on the scoreboard but in also offering little resistance to the unrelenting tides of attacks from the Crusaders.
The hosts were shunted in the scrums and offered the Crusaders countless penalties while they were out-muscled and outwitted when the game opened up as the Bulls played into the visitors’ hands by conceding hordes of possession and acres of territory.
Every time the Bulls managed to get their hands on scraps of possession they failed to generate any go forward and instead went backwards before cheaply giving away the ball to an over eager Crusaders side that were clearly driven by white line fever.
As porous as the Bulls were on the night, they did have opportunities to get themselves on the scoreboard especially earlier in the game but bad decision making and the arrogance in believing their own hype stymied any chance of them making a spectacle out of this contest.
And there was no real contest to speak of when the Crusaders got into their stride as they battered the Bulls forwards into submission with their hard running while the backs were given the freedom of Loftus with poor tackling and a defence that was in disarray.
But like a dying bull, the men in blue continued to fight against the inevitable and were rewarded with three second half tries by Springboks Jesse Kriel, Jamba Ulengo and Jan Serfontein but it won’t alleviate the obvious pressure that now faces coach Nollis Marais and his management team.
While the Crusaders will take a lot of heart from the win and the similarities to their glory season of 2008, the Bulls will hold on to the hope that they won back-to-back titles after the disaster of nine years ago.
Bulls (3) 24 – Tries: Kriel, Ulengo, Serfontein; Conversions: Brummer (3); Penalties: Schoeman (1)
Crusaders (31) 62 – Tries: Samu, Bateman, Barrett, Goodhue (2), Tamanivalu, Havili, Mo’unga, Makalio, Hunt. Conversions: Mo’unga (5), Hunt