Super Rugby 2017 Final: Lions v Crusaders Preview

Lions v Crusaders Final Preview - Three Rugby Players One Being Tackled With Ball in Hand

The Lions will be looking to give Johan Ackermann the perfect send off when they take on the Crusaders at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday 5 August.

The Lions and Crusaders will lock horns in front of a packed house this Saturday in what is one of the most fascinating Super Rugby finals to ever take place. This will be the ultimate clash of styles with the Johan Ackermann’s side set to pit their no holds bar attacking game up against the calculated methodology of the Crusaders.

Will the flair of the Lions see them claim their second Super Rugby title or will the Crusaders' clinical approach see them claim an unprecedented eighth Super Rugby trophy?

Lions v Crusaders | Saturday 5 August | Emirates Airline Park | 16:00

To Win (80 Mins) 
Lions 21/20 | Draw 22/1 | Crusaders 17/20
Lions | Crusaders *Caps to be updated on release.

To Lift Cup
Lions 1/1 | Crusaders 8/10

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I said last week that the Lions could be proud of their achievements regardless of whatever happened in their semi-final against the Hurricanes. And at one point it looked like Johan Ackermann’s crowning achievement while at the helm of the Johannesburg franchise was going to be a 2016 runners-up medal. Little did we know that the Lions would channel their inner Lazuraus and overturn a 19-point def with just 42 minutes remaining on the clock.

To say the Lions came back from the dead last Saturday is an understatement in the same class of saying George Bush was a rather silly American president. I was actually fortunate enough to watch the game with a bunch of Kiwis, and let me tell you, the looks on their faces when Kwagga Smith went over for the five-pointer that sealed the game were absolutely priceless. I personally couldn’t believe they had done it, despite watching them come back from the dead many times before, but those poor old New Zealanders were in absolute shock – two of them actually walked out of the bar muttering “How the hell did that happen, mate?”.

While scum-half Ross Cronje was singled out for a special performance, I personally think it was the Lions’ tight five that got them back into the game. Franco Mostert’s workrate was superhero like, while Malcolm Marx gave opposite number Dane Coles a lesson in modern age hooking play. The Lions' heavies will need to be at their best again this week as the Crusaders tight five will offer a much sterner test than the Hurricanes' engine room did.

Before I conclude the Lions' segment of this piece I must make mention of Harold Vorster who I singled out as a weak link in the Lions backline. The inside centre was an absolute beast last Saturday making a plethora of hits and showing some slick distribution skills. And while I still view Rohan Janse van Rensburg as the better 12, it would be crazy for Johan Ackermann to take Vorster out of the starting XV after last said display.

While the Lions were running it from all quarters the Crusaders were defending like Trojans in the first semi-final of the day. The men from Canterbury managed to beat the Chiefs 27-14 while having only just over a third of possession – probably one of the most impressive rugby stats ever. We can expect another big defensive effort from the ‘Saders this weekend, as they look to nullify the Lions attacking efforts and hit on the counter.

After last week’s display by the Lions' tight five, the Crusaders' heavies know they are in for a real test at Ellis Park. The visitors have the premier pack in the tournament which features a number of All Blacks including Sam Whitelock and Joe Moody. They will need to ensure that they paint referee Jaco Peyper the ‘right picture’ – how I loathe that term – as the South African official did let the Lions front row get away with a few things at the set piece last Saturday.

Speaking of Peyper’s refereeing, his appointment has been met with a lot of skepticism in New Zealand. And while I don’t think he’s a bad referee, he did have a poor game last week. I also think it’s a stupid move by SANZAAR to appoint a non-neutral referee. You’re always going to have calls of bias regardless of how well the man with the whistle performs if he’s not a neutral. And with Aussie Angus Gardner having a stellar season with whistle in hand, it’s rather surprising that he didn’t get the nod ahead of Peyper.

The Stats That Matter
Regardless of how good the Lions have been with ball-in-hand, we need to look at the kicking stats first off as this is finals rugby after all. Both kickers sit with conversion ratios in the in the 70’s – Jantjies has a 77.32% rate while Moaunga has a 71.43% success rate. Both men have been known to have off days with the boot and will need to show a plethora of BMT (Big Match Temperament) in front of goal this week.

The Lions accumulated 590 points for while conceding 268 points during the Conference phase. This equates to an average points for per game tally of 39.33 and a concession of points per game tally of 17.86. The Crusaders were less lethal on attack but still managed to score 544 points during the Conference phase at an average of 36.26 points per game.

Five of he last six Super Rugby Finals have been one by whoever hosted the game. 2010 was the last time a Super Rugby Final was played in South Africa.

Verdict:  Lions (To Win Outright) 1/1
I underestimated them last week and paid the price, I won’t be doing it again. Get on Ackermann's boys to complete one of the greatest comeback stories in sports history at 1/1 – I’m backing the To Win Outright market as it’s open early this week and it takes the draw out of the equation. I suggest you do the same!

Written by Darry Worthington for

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