Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Lions face the ultimate test against Crusaders

It’s disheartening to scavenge around for positives on this one. The Crusaders have never lost a playoff game at Christchurch. They have remained undefeated at the venue the entire season. Looking back further, it has been 19 games since they lost at home — to the Hurricanes in 2016.

If the Lions are to become Super Rugby champions at the third time of asking, it’s going to take a lot of firsts. This time around they have also looked far less convincing en route to the final. The Jo’burgers have arguably lost the expectation to surprise that used to be their signature under Johan Ackermann; a confidence that there was also something more to offer when the odds doubted them.

Much of the talk leading into the game from the Lions camp has centred on them playing their own game and not falling prey to the jitters of the occasion; play their running game and not stand paralysed by the prospect of a Saders’ counter.

The performance against the Jaguares in the quarters was impressive and against the Waratahs they demonstrated their proclivity to sniff out slips and mistakes. As much as they have been the standout team in recent years in the running game, last week again showed the primacy of forward play among South African teams. They dominated the Tahs in the set pieces and, in Kwagga Smith, Malcolm Marx and Marnus Schoeman, they took advantage of any defensive frailties.

Any chance they have on Saturday will stem from injecting the same level of momentum into their mauls that they did to such great effect last weekend. To enhance that consistency, coach Swys de Bruin revealed that his side will have only one training session this week. Having only arrived in the country on Tuesday evening, the team won’t make an attempt to adjust to the New Zealand time zone. To avoid jet lag, they will head down for breakfast at 11am every morning and to bed at 11pm. It’s a strategy that had mixed results in their last Australasia tour.

No one is giving the Lions any hope, for good reason. Every aspect of this Crusaders team has been immense for more than two years. They have no detectable weaknesses and should defend their title comfortably. Whether that sense of inevitability will emancipate the Lions from pressure and allow them to take it to the Kiwis remains to be seen.

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Cabinet reshuffle not on cards yet

There are calls for the president to act against ministers said to be responsible for the state’s slow response to the unrest, but his hands are tied

Rwanda’s involvement in Ramaphosa phone surveillance will further strain relations

But experts doubt the South African intelligence community has the capacity even to establish whether Ramaphosa’s phone was compromised

More top stories

IEC to ask the courts to postpone local elections

The chairperson of the Electoral Commission of South Africa said the Moseneke inquiry found that the elections would not be free and fair if held in October

Daily new Covid-19 cases drop, but recent civil unrest might...

Acting health minister Mmamoloko Kubayi says 120 private pharmacies were destroyed and 47 500 vaccines lost in KwaZulu-Natal

Western Cape closes roads to end deadly taxi violence

The closure of the Mbekweni/Paarl and Bellville route comes as negotiations between taxi operators fail and will affect thousands of commuters

Cabinet reshuffle not on cards yet

There are calls for the president to act against ministers said to be responsible for the state’s slow response to the unrest, but his hands are tied
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×