History books point to Lions victory
Cape Town - The Crusaders will have to rewrite the history books if they are to beat the Lions in Saturday’s Super Rugby final in Johannesburg.
The men from Christchurch were the tournament pace-setters for the majority of the 2017 season, remaining unbeaten until the final round of group stage action before losing to the Hurricanes in Wellington.
In that game, the Crusaders led 22-14 midway through the second half, before capitulating in the final quarter to go down 31-22.
That sole loss proved crucial as it allowed the Lions to finish atop the overall standings.
For their exploits, the Lions earned the right to host the grand finale and they should bag their first Super Rugby title in the professional era - well, if history is anything to go by.
In 21 years of Super Rugby finals, the away team has won only five times, and on four of those occasions it was in their own country.
The Crusaders will however take heart from the fact that they have won three finals away from home - achieved consecutively between 1998 and 2000 when they defeated the Blues (Auckland), Highlanders (Dunedin) and Brumbies (Canberra).
The Bulls (v Sharks, 2007) and Highlanders (v Hurricanes, 2015) are the other teams to have claimed away wins in Super Rugby finals.
However, no team has done it by crossing the Indian Ocean and the Crusaders will be aware of the challenge lying in wait.
The altitude/jet lag factor cannot be ignored and was again evident last weekend when the Hurricanes ran out of puff in the final 20 minutes of their semi-final at Ellis Park.
The Crusaders have also never won a Super Rugby knockout game on the Highveld, having lost 2007, 2009 and 2010 semi-finals to the Bulls, as well as last year’s quarter-final to the Lions.
They will be up against it against a rampant Lions outfit backed by 62 000 fervent fans at Ellis Park.
It will no doubt take some effort for the men from Christchurch to claim their eighth Super Rugby title - and first since 2008...
Past Super Rugby finals (away wins in bold):
1996: Blues 45-21 Sharks, Auckland
1997: Blues 23-7 Brumbies, Auckland
1998: Blues 13-20 Crusaders, Auckland
1999: Highlanders 19-24 Crusaders, Dunedin
2000: Brumbies 19-20 Crusaders, Canberra
2001: Brumbies 36-6 Sharks, Canberra
2002: Crusaders 31-13 Brumbies, Christchurch
2003: Blues 21-17 Crusaders, Auckland
2004: Brumbies 47-38 Crusaders, Canberra
2005: Crusaders 35-25 Waratahs, Christchurch
2006: Crusaders 19-12 Hurricanes, Christchurch
2007: Sharks 19-20 Bulls, Durban
2008: Crusaders 20-12 Waratahs, Christchurch
2009: Bulls 61-17 Chiefs, Pretoria
2010: Bulls 25-17 Stormers, Soweto
2011: Reds 18-13 Crusaders, Brisbane
2012: Chiefs 37-6 Sharks, Hamilton
2013: Chiefs 27-22 Brumbies, Hamilton
2014: Waratahs 33-32 Crusaders, Sydney
2015: Hurricanes 14-21 Highlanders, Wellington
2016: Hurricanes 20-3 Lions, Wellington
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
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