Titanic clash of packs key at Ellis Park

    2017-08-04 11:00

    Lloyd Burnard - Johannesburg

    Johannesburg - As is the case in most cup finals, the battle of the packs is expected to be crucial in Saturday's sold-out Super Rugby final between the Lions and the Crusaders at Ellis Park. 

    It is an area where the visitors are being given the edge, due largely to the fact that they boast seven All Blacks in their starting scrum, plus two more in Wyatt Crockett and Luke Romano on their bench. 

    The Lions, though, will take massive encouragement from their performance against the Hurricanes in last weekend's semi-final where their scrum was solid and their rolling maul devastating.  

    If the Lions are to free up their backs and give them space and time they need to play their natural style, then they will have to dominate their own set pieces and secure quick ball on the ground. 

    And that is where the hosts face a massive challenge, because the Crusaders are the best scrumming side in the competition and their defensive work at the breakdown is also world class. 

    While the Lions thrive on attacking their opposition fearlessly and from anywhere, the Crusaders are more methodical in their approach while their ability to slow down opposition ball, combined with a suffocating defence, makes them a difficult side to penetrate. 

    The Crusaders have conceded just one try in the play-offs so far, while on attack they are clinical. 

    In their semi-final against the Chiefs, the Crusaders had limited opportunities, yet somehow outscored their opposition by four tries to one. 

    Securing front foot ball will be crucial for the Lions if they are to do what the Chiefs couldn't do and turn pressure into points.

    "If you look at how many All Blacks they've got up front, they're up there with one of the best packs in world rugby," Lions coach Johan Ackermann said.

    "If you look at the percentages, the Crusaders have the best scrum and lineout," captain Jaco Kriel added.

    "Their set-piece is really working for them. We must just make sure we stick to what we do and that our set-pieces work for us."

    The Lions, though, will know that they have a pretty solid pack themselves. 

    Their scrum has functioned well all season, they have a fantastic lineout jumper in Franco Mostert and in Malcolm Marx, Jaco Kriel and Kwagga Smith they have players who can make a massive impact on the ground. 

    There is a lot of intensity in this group of Lions forwards. They are all mobile, strong and with 62 000 people behind them on Saturday they will certainly not run out of legs.

    They will absolutely be backing themselves to go toe-to-toe with the Crusaders in every department. 

    Crusaders No 7 Matt Todd agrees that the forward battle will have a big say in who emerges victorious on Saturday.

    "I think it will go a long way," he told Sport24.

    "The Lions have a good set piece and get a lot of momentum from that, winning penalties or getting a good roll on to free up some space for their backs.

    "We've got confidence in our pack that we can do a job, and we're certainly going to have to because the Lions are a quality pack and dangerous."

    Todd also made special mention of Lions skipper Jaco Kriel.

    "He's been great for them, having taken on that leadership role," said Todd.

    "He's a key emotional leader for them and has a massive work rate. He gets around the park and is one of many guys we're going to have to keep an eye on this weekend."

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    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

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