Super Rugby 2018 Final: Crusaders vs Lions Preview

Rugby Player scores try

The Lions will play in their third-successive Super Rugby final this Saturday but will be hard-pressed to beat arguably the greatest Super Rugby side of the last decade, writes Shaun Goosen.


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Super Rugby Final 2018
Crusaders v Lions
4 August 09h35
AMI Stadium, Christchurch

To Win
Crusaders 1/9
Draw 25/1
Lions 11/2

Handicap 
Crusaders -18.5 (9/10)
Lions +18.5 (9/10)

The Crusaders have lost just twice all season long and remain overwhelming favourites heading into Saturday’s Super Rugby final at the AMI Stadium in Christchurch.

Some of their performances this season have almost beggared belief. The power, skill, and tactical nous these Cantabrians possess have led many to believe that the result of this weekend’s title-decider is already a foregone conclusion.

In beating the Hurricanes 30-12, Scott Robertson’s men underlined their status as the best side in the land and have since drawn comparisons to Leo Cullen’s Leinster team currently dominating the European scene.

That said, the Lions can't be written-off quite so easily. Theirs is a squad that made the Grand Final in 2016, 2017 and now again in 2018. The pain and lessons learnt from their previous two finals defeats simply must rally the Pride of Jozi against seemingly impossible odds.

The Lions are most likely to target the Saders’ strengths, so expect the scrum and lineout battles to be titanic. Also, in Malcolm Marx and Kwagga Smith (ranked first and second respectively in turnovers won, according to the Rugby Stats app), Swys de Bruin holds two of the competition’s mightiest breakdown exponents.

The hosts will rue the loss of Jordan Taufua to injury, a player they would certainly have looked towards to keep tabs on Marx and Smith at the breakdown. Nevertheless, the latter two’s involvement in the game will be redundant if the Crusaders pack gets a hold of their opposite number in the manner to which we have become accustomed over the past few months.

The final will also serve as another opportunity for Lions pivot Elton Jantjies to stamp his mark on a truly massive occasion. In previous instances, particularly in the Test arena, the 27-year-old has been found wanting and his decision-making and execution this weekend will make or break his side’s chances.

His opposite number, Richie Mo’unga, has been in sublime form for some time now. Touted as the heir to the Barrett throne, another game-shaping performance will surely not go unnoticed by Steve Hansen.

Crusaders

15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Sam Anderson-Heather, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor

Lions

15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrink, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Substitutes: 16 Corne Fourie, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 23 Howard Mnisi

Verdict: Crusaders -18.5 (9/10)
There might be an argument for a “third time’s the charm” scenario for the Lions, but this Crusaders outfit are from another planet. It will be close for large passages, but the guile and cunning of the Saders’ heavymen – including those coming off the wood – will make it two finals wins in a row.

Written by Shaun Goosen for Hollywoodbets

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