Rob Houwing - Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Now
the amazing, nine-time Super Rugby champions, the Crusaders often provide enthralling
masterclasses in attacking play.
Saturday’s 2018 final against the Lions in Christchurch, their
admirably-structured, committed and un-budging defence was the cornerstone of
their fairly predictable 37-18 triumph over the Lions.
The men from
Johannesburg put in a valiant shift, never giving the impression that they
would surrender their famed spirit, but also found it well-nigh impossible much
of the time to get over the advantage line despite clear-cut domination of both
territory and possession.
they did cross the whitewash – twice – the calm, clinical ‘Saders would almost
inevitably strike back swiftly and lethally to dispel any suggestion that an
upset might take place.
hosts and heavy favourites had also done their homework thoroughly on the
much-touted Lions’ attacking lineout maul … so much so that the red-and-whites
sometimes, deflatingly, binned it as an option.
On a dry but
chilly night, the Lions were dapper enough yet outsmarted foes, and one of
their departing stalwarts, Franco Mostert, earns top score for the SA outfit on
my ratings chart.
Here’s how I rated the Lions in
Andries Coetzee: 5.5
error-free showing by the fullback, who made his aerial claims assuredly.
Carried the ball up spiritedly once or twice, but no surprise elements from
Ruan Combrinck: 6
patchy showing from a man keen to regain the Springbok No 14 berth, though one
of the more dangerous Lions back-liners on the night. Made one beautiful bust
through the middle in the first half, and found a pleasingly long touch from a
penalty. Some gremlins on defence, and a pass straight into touch.
Lionel Mapoe: 5.5
outside centre channel reasonably well, though few opportunities with ball in
hand. Superb track-back tackle on Jack Goodhue … but it still didn’t prevent a
try, and he’d also just been beaten in an aerial 50-50 that sparked the ‘Saders
Harold Vorster: 6
Took a few
intelligent options, including a smart grubber toward the corner flag on attack
in first half. Surrendered a maul turnover.
Courtnall Skosan: 5.5
tackles, though fatally “sucked in” for Seta Tamanivalu’s try. Engineered one
decent counter-raid from deep.
Elton Jantjies: 4.5
all his talent, another too clearly error-laden performance on one of rugby’s more
testing stages. Played too much in the pocket, even when Lions had generous ball
and real estate. Made a pass to nowhere, overcooked some hoists expensively to
hand back possession, and decision-making was ropey. Consummately outplayed at
ten by the outstanding Richie Mo’unga.
Ross Cronje: 5
complain too much about his basics, including mostly delivering accurate
passes. But also short of X-factor and sometimes swamped before he could
release the “pill”.
Warren Whiteley: 5.5
head in leadership terms, but personal showing little more than average. One
clever pass out of a tackle, but another that went astray.
Cyle Brink: 6
initially to put a stamp on things, including penalty giveaway for not rolling.
But earns a mark-up for his sensational break out of two attempted tackles to streak
away for Lions’ first try. (Justin Marshall praised his “honest, brutal power”
in doing so.)
Kwagga Smith: 4.5
hoped for a better showing after his red card against the same foes in last
year’s showpiece. But little to no impact in scavenging terms, and missed a
couple of costly tackles.
Franco Mostert: 7
heart-and-soul swansong for the Lions: no more than you’d expect from their
ever-consistent warhorse? Scrapped earnestly at coalface, and was twice (once
in a try-saving sense) the last Lions defender at the corner flag to confirm
his overall energy.
Marvin Orie: 5.5
eye-opening, constructive fire in his belly for much of the season, but here he
just fell short of more customary standards in 2018, by my book.
Ruan Dreyer: 4.5
effective earlier in the knockout phase, here the tighthead anchor couldn’t
assert himself at scrum time. Won one penalty as rival Joe Moody lost bind, but
also leaked two, plus spilled a ball in contact.
Malcolm Marx: 6
little muted in first half, though Crusaders were also watching the No 2
dangerman like a hawk. Came much more strongly into his own after break,
including typically muscular barge over line for 68th-minute try
that (very briefly) gave his team unlikely game-snatch hope.
Jacques van Rooyen: 5
one area Lions had hoped to slightly edge; it didn’t happen and Van Rooyen
laboured for any truly assertive heaves.
Aphiwe Dyantyi: 6.5
Skosan in 53rd minute and immediately looked lively, slippery. Also
put in one courageous high-ball challenge where he got the better of the much
brawnier Tamanivalu, forcing an error.
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