The Storyline: The two best teams will tussle this weekend for the Super Rugby Championship. The Lions finished the season on top with 65 points and 14 wins. This gives them the right to host the final after edging the Sharks and overturning a 19-point deficit to beat the Hurricanes in the quarters and semi-finals respectively. The Crusaders finished second with 63 points and have made their way to the final by beating the Highlanders and Chiefs in very cold, very damp Christchurch conditions, winning both games by applying pressure in defence. SANZAAR controversially opted to appoint a non-neutral referee for the decider.
— Patrick Yuen (@PatrickYuen_36) August 1, 2017
- The Crusaders have a 6-4 away record against the Lions.
- The Lions win in last year’s quarter-final ended a seven-match losing streak against the Crusaders.
- The Crusaders have lost their last four finals games away from home, and their last four Super Rugby deciders on the road.
- The Lions have won four straight finals games in Johannesburg.
- The Lions are 19-5 at home from 2015-17; the Crusaders are 15-7 away during the same period.
- Only one team has won a Super Rugby final overseas – the Crusaders in Canberra in 2000.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) August 2, 2017
Three Key Match-ups
Ruan Ackermann v Kieran Read – The coach’s son versus the All Blacks captain. We all know what Read can do, he leads with the ball in hand and on defence. Ackermann is only 21 years old but should get a look in for the Springboks this year. He has a similar skill-set to Read and looks like a leader for the future. This will be a huge battle between these two.
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Malcolm Marx v Codie Taylor – How good will this be? Both hookers are very young but seem to have heaps of experience in their game already. Hard running, stinging defence and a knack for finding the try-line are traits they share. These two will no doubt beat each other up on the field for years to come.
— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) August 3, 2017
Matt Todd v Jaco Kriel – Contrast in styles, Matt Todd is the forgotten man of New Zealand rugby but consistently plays out of his skin every time he takes the field, running tight line inside his flyhalf and generally topping the tackle count. Jaco Kriel tends to make his running metres out wide, using his big frame to break tackles.
— Sowetan LIVE (@SowetanLIVE) August 3, 2017
Why the Lions will win: The obvious one, they have home-field advantage – and in the Johannesburg altitude, that advantage is even more pronounced. The last time they played outside of South Africa, you ask? May 12 versus the Brumbies! They have that extra experience of playing in a losing grand final last year and they will take a lot from that. The thin air and dry track will help them avoid the rush defence of the Crusaders.
— Emirates Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) August 3, 2017
Why the Crusaders will win: The Crusaders will win because they have plenty of All Blacks and have had a harder run going into the finals. They have 11 players who boast International Test caps and that experience and level of rugby will help them in the big dance. Not to mention they have had to play New Zealand teams week in, week out which is a better level of rugby, proven by having four teams in the finals series.
— BNZ Crusaders (@crusadersrugby) August 3, 2017
The Verdict: Extremely had to pick this one. The Crusaders made 185 tackles last week which is close to the most this season and then have had to travel all the way to South Africa. The Lions have been at home pretty much all year and came back to win against a very good Hurricanes team last week in the semis. Based on this I have to tip the Lions in a close one. Lions 1-12
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) July 31, 2017