Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after the 2017 Super Rugby semi-finals:
1. You can win without the ball!
The 27-13 scoreline in the Crusaders’ win over the Chiefs does not tell the full tale of what transpired in the game.
The Chiefs did most of the playing, as was evident in the post-match statistics derived from SANZAAR’s official website.
The Chiefs dominated the metres made on attack (538m-363m), carries (176-75), defenders beaten (29-9), clean breaks (14-7), passes completed (213-98), rucks won (132-49) and even conceded fewer penalties (5-7).
Yet, the record books will state the Crusaders won comfortably, outscoring the Chiefs by four tries to one.
The Crusaders pounced when they had the opportunity and their win was based on a staunch defensive effort - they made 185 tackles compared to the meagre 66 of the Chiefs.
Who could have guessed that a Kiwi side can win ugly? The Lions should know that they will face a different outfit in the final this weekend...
2. Never-say-die Lions
The Lions were underdogs heading into Saturday’s clash, with just about the whole of New Zealand giving them no chance to beat the Hurricanes.
And when the ‘Canes racked up a 22-3 lead in the first half, the odds were even more heavily stacked against the home side.
However, what followed was easy on the eye for South African rugby enthusiasts.
The Lions outscored the Hurricanes by a 41-7 scoreline in the last 45 minutes and showed they have the characteristics needed for a championship outfit: character, ability to execute under pressure, keeping calm under pressure, fighting spirit and camaraderie.
The altitude effect also no doubt aides the Lions at Ellis Park and should strand them in good stead against the Crusaders this weekend.
3. Jantjies steps up to the plate
Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies copped heavy criticism for his performance against the Sharks in the quarter-finals.
And in the early stages of the game against the Hurricanes, Jantjies’ performance had Lions fans worried.
Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara’s try came after he scooped on a loose pass from Jantjies, while there was also once instance where Jantjies inexplicably took a quick tap after his side won a penalty.
The Lions were trailing 22-3 and were struggling to exit their own half, before winning a penalty. What was needed then was for Jantjies to kick out and set up a lineout in the opposition’s territory.
However, Jantjies managed to calm down and ended the game in stellar fashion. He scored a try and appears to have corrected his goal-kicking issues.
A confident Jantjies playing on the front-foot spells danger for the Crusaders...
4. Jaco Peyper in the spotlight
Media reports emanating from New Zealand indicate that the Hurricanes were not happy with the performance of South African referee Jaco Peyper.
Patrick McKendry wrote in the New Zealand Herald: "The Hurricanes had several reasons to be disappointed with the performance of ref Jaco Peyper - particularly for the second-half yellow card shown to Beauden Barrett, who was sin-binned for playing the ball with his legs in a ruck when replays showed he was simply trying to get out of the way. The Lions were hot on the attack, but there was no team warning, just a straight yellow from Peyper, and the home side capitalised first with the easy penalty kick and then a converted try while Barrett was off."
There’s no doubt that the Barrett sending off aided the Lions greatly - the hosts scored 17 unanswered points during his absence - and in the previous week they also benefited from a dubious yellow card awarded to Sharks lock Stephan Lewies.
Perhaps a neutral referee for Saturday’s final will suffice and don’t be surprised if that man is Australia’s Angus Gardner.
5. Poor Ellis Park crowd
What was noticeable during Saturday’s game at Ellis Park was the number of empty seats.
The official attendance figure was given as 27 908 by SuperSport TV - which means Ellis Park was not even half-full - and that for a semi-final!
What more does Lions fans want? Their team finished atop the overall standings and lost just one game all season.
In the last couple of years it’s been noticeable how many Lions fans have made their ‘re-emergence’ - especially on social media - after their team’s resurgence under the guidance of Johan Ackermann.
Several Lions fans were ‘non-existent’ for the best part of 15 years and it’s great to see the renewed support on various social media platforms, but the team deserves a full house when they host the Crusaders in Saturday’s final.
The Crusaders have a poor record in recent Super Rugby finals and a packed Ellis Park could prove a vital difference in the final outcome.
So, go out and support your team, Lions fans!