PRETORIA – The Crusaders are renowned and feared by many for what they’ve done and continue to do in Super Rugby.
But Bulls centre Burger Odendaal only has fond memories of playing against them at Loftus Versfeld and is relishing another opportunity of reminding the rugby world that the men from New Zealand are mere mortals and should not be feared.
It was two years ago when Odendaal made his Super Rugby debut against the Crusaders in the capital and coming into the match as a virtual unknown, Odendaal finished the game a hero with his man-of-the-match performance that earned the Bulls victory.
What was even more astonishing about Odendaal’s first taste of Super Rugby was that he had been told four hours before kick-off that he would be part of the match day 23 and starting in place of the injured Springbok Jan Serfontein.
Odendaal will start again on Saturday against the Crusaders at Loftus ahead of Serfontein who is on the bench and even though he and his Bulls teammates are not an unknown factor to the New Zealanders, the men in blue will certainly come into the game as underdogs with their poor results this season opposed to the Crusaders nine match winning streak.
And that is exactly how Odendaal likes it, with the Bulls written off and all the pressure and expectation for victory on the Crusaders.
“It is always better to go into the game as underdogs and at the moment nobody is giving us a chance. They (Crusaders) have everything to lose and we are just going to go out there to play. The pressure is on them and all we can do is to enjoy the moment,” said Odendaal who rounded off his stellar debut with a try.
The Bulls management wasted no time in using Odendaal’s debut to inspire the team and earlier this week shared video highlights of that memorable game in 2015.
Odendaal is hopeful that scenes of him dismantling the Crusaders will again play themselves out on Saturday as the Bulls look to become the first side to overcome Scott Robertson’s men this season.
“They posted that video in our group and the guys watched that again and it brought a bit of energy to the team,” Odendaal said.
“I have special memories especially against them in my debut game so hopefully we can make it a special night again.”
As unlikely as it seems and on the back of two unconvincing victories against the Jaguares and Cheetahs at home recently, the Bulls truly believe that they can pull a rabbit out of the hat performance against a side that has shown how lethal they are in their latest wins against the Stormers (57-24) and Cheetahs (48-21).
The Bulls will also source some of their motivation from history and knowing that the Crusaders haven’t beaten them at Loftus in almost a decade.
“I think Loftus is a special place and we have proved it. The last time they beat us here is 2008 and it will be a big challenge for them as well. Teams know that when they come to Loftus it won’t be easy.”
Just like Odendaal was two years ago in his debut match, the Bulls will come into Saturday’s encounter with no one giving them any chance, but they know how great an opportunity it will be for them to seize with the prized scalp of the log leading Crusaders as the ultimate trophy.
“I think every week is a different challenge and we are up for it. What better team to play than them, nine wins after nine games so hopefully we can change that after this weekend,” Burger said.