Hurricanes skipper backs Lions for title
Lloyd Burnard - Ellis Park
Johannesburg - Hurricanes captain Dane Coles has heaped praise on the Lions following Saturday's epic semi-final at Ellis Park.
The Lions came back from 22-3 down to win the match 44-29 in front of a vocal Johannesburg crowd, and they have now booked their place in next weekend's final against the Crusaders at the same venue.
Both the Lions and the Crusaders lost just one match in the group stages of Super Rugby this year, but it was the Lions who secured top spot on the overall log and the right to host next weekend's final.
"They are a quality side and they deserve to finish top of the table. You can tell they've got great belief in their team and they never gave up," Coles said after the match.
"I'm pretty sure they can go all the way and win the competition ... they deserve to have a home final and it's going to be a hell of a game next week."
Coles doesn't think, however, that the travel factor will be too much of an issue for the Crusaders.
"That Crusaders team is pretty experienced and they've got a lot of senior boys who know how to travel. They'll make sure they do everything they can to give themselves the best chance of winning," he said.
Canes coach Chris Boyd was more critical of his own players than he was complimentary of the Lions.
"I'm not sure whether the lack of oxygen at altitude effects the muscles in the legs or the brain, because we made some pretty average decisions," he answered when asking what impact playing at altitude may have had on his side.
"Whichever way you go, the team that's sitting at home not having to travel is going to have the advantage."
Boyd also pointed to Beauden Barrett's yellow card in the second half as a critical moment in the game.
"You know that we're not allowed to comment on the referees so I'm not going to say anything about whether it was or it wasn't, but it certainly had an impact on the game," he said.
Coles, meanwhile, had a different view of that incident.
"He (referee Jaco Peyper) was right, at the end of the day," said Coles.
"I think we lost a bit of punch, especially in that second half. I thought we shut up shop and probably kicked a bit too much."
Next Saturday's final will kick-off at 16:00.