The Bulls' long-range counterattacking ability has the Crusaders on edge ahead of Saturday's Super Rugby playoff at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.

The South Africans have lost each of the last eight times they've played the Crusaders at home, and the red-and-blacks have won all of their 13 Super Rugby play-off matches in Christchurch since 1998.

But second five-eighth Ryan Crotty, improving with every game outside an injury-free Dan Carter, says the Bulls are a dangerous team from anywhere on the park.

Halfback Francois Hougaard can spark an attack from out of nothing, Crotty told RadioLive Sport, while wings Akona Ndungane and Bjorn Basson have the pace to punish any defensive shortcomings.

"They're not afraid to throw the ball around," he said.

"They're quite an exciting team to play, and they do score those long-range tries, so that means our kick and chase is going to have to be on song this week."

Crotty, 23, says there's little chance of the Crusaders taking the home advantage for granted.

"It's finals footy, and that comes down to being able to perform your basics when you're really under pressure," he said.

"Whichever team can really execute their basics under the pump will come out with the win."

The Bulls are unchanged apart from the return of lock Flip van der Merwe, who has recovered from the hip injury that saw him miss last week's 37-20 victory over the Lions and replaces Wilhelm Steenkamp in the second row.

The Crusaders will be without All Blacks loosie Kieran Read, with Richie McCaw moving to take his place at the back of the scrum.

All Blacks prop Ben Franks drops to the bench, replaced by Wyatt Crockett at loosehead, while international lock Sam Whitelock returns after being rested last week.

Powerful centre Robbie Fruean is restored to the run-on side outside Crotty, while Adam Whitelock replaces Sean Maitland on the wing.

NZ Newswire

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