Cru­saders’ woe­ful record on the Highveld

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - Seven-time Su­per Rugby cham­pi­ons have never won a play-off game in Gaut­eng, los­ing all four of their clashes at al­ti­tude, writes

With all the grand his­tory they come with and boast­ing some of the best play­ers the world has seen, the Cru­saders have an ugly se­cret they want no­body to speak about.

In the 10 years and four Su­per Rugby play-off en­coun­ters played on the Highveld, the most suc­cess­ful team in the his­tory of Su­per Rugby is yet to win one.

They will come to El­lis Park to­mor­row des­per­ate to shake the mon­key off their back. Let’s take a closer look at those four matches: by beat­ing the Reds 92-3 to grab an im­prob­a­ble home semi-fi­nal.

It would be easy to at­tribute the Cru­saders sur­prise maiden loss in a play-off to the travel fac­tor but with an ex­pe­ri­enced out­fit that had made the long trek to the Highveld on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, this could not be used as an ex­cuse.

Bulls and Spring­bok fly­half Der­ick Hougaard was the star of the show at Lof­tus as he scored all of his team’s points with eight penal­ties and a drop­goal while All Black fly­half Dan Carter slot­ted over four penal­ties.

This would be the be­gin­ning of the Cru­saders four match play-off dry spell on the Highveld even with their starstud­ded line-up.

Again, it was the boot of an­other Bulls fly­half, this time Morne Steyn, that drove the dag­ger through the hearts of the New Zealan­ders as Steyn slot­ted over four drop-goals and three con­ver­sions.

The Bulls were once again su­pe­rior in all facets of play and crossed the white­wash three times with tries from Spring­boks Akona Ndun­gane, Bryan Ha­bana and Pierre Spies while the Cru­saders scored two tries from Ge­orge White­lock and Kieran Read.

The Cru­saders were prov­ing to be the Bulls’ lucky charm as their sec­ond semi-fi­nal win was a spring­board for an­other Su­per Rugby ti­tle for the side from Lof­tus Vers­feld. as they went on to win a record third ti­tle for a South African side and leave an un­wanted blem­ish on the Cru­saders play-off record in the com­pe­ti­tion.

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