Don't get on the plane if you're not looking to win - Swys
Brenden Nel - SuperSport.com
Johannesburg - That was the bold message on departure from Lions coach Swys de Bruin as his team departed for New Zealand ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby final against the Crusaders in Christchurch, where the odds are stacked against them.
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De Bruin knows all too well the history that favours the home side in the playoffs, and especially the finals, and knows that no team from outside New Zealand has ever crossed the ocean to win a Super Rugby final.
But despite these odds, he is positive, chirpy and looking forward to having a crack against the top ranked team in the competition. The Lions may be heavy underdogs, but they’re not going to go down wondering in Saturday’s final.
“Yeah you’ve got the disadvantage but luckily we’ve been around five or six years with this group. We have beaten guys down there in Australia and New Zealand, the Chiefs in Hamilton is a good example,” De Bruin said.
“We can’t leave, and get on this plane if we think we are just going to have a game. We have to get on this plane to go and do a job. It is tough down there, but it is tough all over if you don’t want to play. It’s just as tough for example at Newlands and Loftus.”
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The statistics will show that the Crusaders have a perfect record of 20 playoff games in Christchurch without a loss, and have been virtually unbeatable on their home turf. Their rush defence suffocates teams and they have the forwards to take on the opposition and to create enough quality ball for the backline.
But all of that might sound daunting to their spectators, but definitely not to De Bruin and company.
“It makes the challenge just so much bigger and we are looking forward to it. It changes. We had 21 wins in a row against South African teams and we lost against the Sharks. It changes, you never know when so hopefully it changes when we want it,” De Bruin said.
“But that is a great record and they must be very proud of it. Like us they have a very good back-up system there with their supporters, they are very vocal and sit very close to the ground. They make a big, big noise there and it is very tough for the officials to stay in the moment and I just hope and pray that they do stay in the moment, then it will be a good game, I am sure of that.”
De Bruin praised the Crusaders forwards, and said the battle will be won or lost up front, where some big hits are expected with a Lions pack also in form.
“Stats give you an indication. They are the No 2 or three scrum team at the moment and their lineouts we are sitting at No 1, and they are No 4, or is it three? Right through the competition it has been two very good packs of forwards, well-coached - Phillip Lemmer did an awesome job with the pack of forwards so, and they have a couple of All Blacks in that camp, they have the All Black captain at No 8.
“They have Whitelock and those guys, so they have a very good front row. They’ve got a good pack, so they say all games are won up front so it might happen there again.”
While the Crusaders have revelled under their home conditions, the dew and wet will be less what the Lions are used to on their hard, fast home field in Johannesburg. But De Bruin said the team will adapt, and will need to adapt soon if they are to have a chance.
“Firstly the conditions are the same for both teams, they’re just a little more used to it. The sooner you adapt in your mind the better. It is the same for them, the fact that they are used to it will add an advantage, but we are very blessed, we have played a few games in the rain with these guys and we have had some good victories in the rain. So we didn’t win that final, but I remember rain games against the Blues, against the Brumbies. The guys know those circumstances well but it will be important that we adapt first.”
The Lions will name their team for the final on Thursday.
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