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    Game day! Ellis Park braces for Super Rugby epic

    2017-08-05 07:12

    Lloyd Burnard - Johannesburg

    Johannesburg - At 16:00 on Saturday afternoon, all eyes will be on Ellis Park as the Lions look to reach the summit of southern hemisphere franchise rugby by toppling the Crusaders in what is shaping to be an epic Super Rugby final. 

    The battle lines have been drawn, the coaches and players have said all they can say and now all that remains is an 80 minute battle that will determine who the champions are. 

    Ellis Park is sold out, and even the most experienced players are mindful of the enormity of the occasion

    The atmosphere will be daunting for both teams, and even two-time World Cup winner and Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock says that this is "right up there" with the biggest matches he has ever played. 

    "There has been a lot of history with the Crusaders and Super Rugby, but I've never been a part of a winning side. To go out there and become one of those guys that's won a title would be amazing," he said from Ellis Park on Friday. 

    That illustrates just how much this means to both sides. 

    While the Crusaders have won more Super Rugby titles than anyone else - seven in the SANZAAR era - they have not lifted the trophy since 2008. 

    While the tournament structure has faced some serious criticism over the past two years, the 2017 final does see the best two teams in the competition this year squaring off. 

    For the Lions, it will be an emotional day regardless of the result. 

    Coach Johan Ackermann is off to Gloucester at the end of the season, and this will be his last match in charge of the franchise after transforming them from Super Rugby nobodies to back-to-back finalists. 

    That, perhaps, is the biggest motivating factor for the Lions on Saturday. 

    "What coach Johan has done for Lions rugby is amazing and we want to give our best for him in his last game," flank Kwagga Smith told Sport24

    "That's all we can do. We know that, no matter what the result, we have his respect and now we can just go out there and give our all."

    While much was said of South African referee Jaco Peyper handling the final, both Robertson and Whitelock have no issues with the appointment. 

    "We've had him three or four times this year and he's been outstanding in those games," said Whitelock.

    "He's an ultimate professional and he's going to call it the way he sees it."

    *Sport24 will be doing live updates on the final, and will be at Ellis Park providing you with Facebook live footage from the stadium as well as all of the reaction from the game.

    Teams:

    Lions

    15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen

    Substitutes: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 23 Sylvian Mahuza

    Crusaders

    15 David Havili, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Seta Tamanivalu, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody

    Substitutes: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Mike Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 George Bridge

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