First-time feat looms for Lions, ‘Saders
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – It
has never happened before in Super Rugby.
planets are gradually aligning for the Crusaders and Lions to create a first:
be the same two teams in successive finals in the competition.
the quarter-finals this weekend, the Lions are likely to be installed as favourites
for their home semi against the Waratahs, while the eight-time champion ‘Saders
will similarly be fancied – if only just? – to prevail in an epic all-New
Zealand affair against the Hurricanes in Christchurch.
scenario play out, the Crusaders would tee up a home showpiece on August 4
against the Highveld-based outfit – a carbon copy of the 2017 final in
Johannesburg, when the visitors won 25-17.
repeat final has never occurred before, stretching right back to 1993 when it
all really started as a major competition (the then-Super 10).
was in a period when consistently strong Crusaders and Brumbies sides met three
times in the showpiece in five years, but never consecutively: the finals between
them were in 2000, 2002 and 2004.
of course, there are significant obstacles for both the Lions and ‘Saders to
overcome, even if they will be heartened by respective, comfortable quarter-final
Cantabrians whipped the occasionally resilient but also awfully error-prone
Sharks 40-10, while the Lions also had some breathing space at the final
whistle after seeing off the Jaguares 40-23 at Emirates Airline Park.
for the scores of South Africans who wish to see the Lions win their first
modern Super Rugby title after successive appearances in finals is for the
Hurricanes to upset the champions next weekend – they are the side in the
competition likeliest to do it, and in terms of log points generated by both it
is also the “proper” showpiece in the minds of many.
result does happen, the Lions would simply have to keep their eyes firmly on
the ball against the Waratahs to ensure another Johannesburg final.
It remains a
cold fact that no SA team has yet managed to win any kind off knockout match in
the Land of the Long White Cloud, so any avoidance of a showpiece in
Christchurch would naturally be treasured by Warren Whiteley’s troops.
They do look
in a good space to knock over the ‘Tahs, despite the Sydney-based team
producing a rousing second half turnaround on Saturday – helped by scoring
three tries with Waisake Naholo off the park with a particularly costly yellow
card – to beat the Highlanders.
inconsistent for long periods during ordinary season, the Lions have now
produced two pretty rousing home games on the trot, if you add in last
weekend’s slick 38-12 derby downing of the Bulls.
found the perfect time for a morale-boosting head of steam, and will also be
buoyed ahead of the semi-final by knowledge that they thrashed the Waratahs
29-0 away much earlier in the season.
Marx monumentally to the fore in a number of ways, the Lions’ pack ensured
vital domination of their South American opponents and they ran some smart
lines on the attack as well, aided by Elton Jantjies’ welcome assertiveness and
sparkle at flyhalf.
Springbok hooker scored a runaway-train try of his own after an intercept, but
was particularly lethal at the breakdown.
absolute menace over the ball … and usually completely legally, too,” enthused
top SuperSport pundit Nick Mallett of Marx, who made several steals or
Stransky was barely less effusive: “Everything that’s good about the Lions, he
seems to be involved in.”
for the Lions, looking ahead to the semis, was that Marx was clearly
experiencing some sort of discomfort shortly before he was withdrawn in the 70th
minute, while another form player in blindside flank Cyle Brink didn’t reappear
after halftime; he had hurt an upper arm or shoulder while making a
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