New Zealand’s Crusaders and South Africa’s Lions will square off in the grand Super Rugby final, with the Lions having home court advantage as the match will be played in Johannesburg.
The Lions posted an excellent record in the regular season of the South African group, losing just once in 15 games. They had serious problems at home against the Sharks in the playoff quarterfinals, barely winning 23-21, but followed it up with a magnificent victory in their home semifinal against arguably the 3rd best team in Super Rugby – the mighty Hurricanes. The Lions were trailing 3-22 at half time and the match seemed to be over, but the South Africans mounted a monumental comeback to eventually win it 44-29! The result was facilitated by a Hurricanes collapse and by a yellow card, but still you can`t take anything away from the Lions.
The Crusaders had a terrific season so far, almost finishing undefeated in the strong Australasian group (14 wins, 1 loss), their only defeat coming in the last match of the regular season, away at the excellent Hurricanes, with Crusaders missing a bunch of key players. The visitors also cruised in the playoffs, defeating the Highlanders 17-0 and the Chiefs 27-13, being at full strength and in top form coming into this final.Bet on Lions vs. Crusaders and claim your 100% (100 Eur) freebet at Ohmbet now!
Team news & lineups:
The Crusaders will be ecstatic by the news that New Zealand captain Kieran Ried and fellow All Black Owen Franks are fit to start in the final. There are no new injuries or suspension for either side, and both teams will field the same lineups as in the semifinals.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Crusaders: 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 (c), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Even if both teams had the exact same record in terms of wins and losses this season, fact is that the Lions played in the weaker South African group and the Crusaders are a better side overall.
Player for player the visitors are definitely superior here, as they are basically the New Zealand team from 1 to 8, and have plenty of talent out wide as well. With Crusaders playing great all season and not showing any sign of weakness, there is no reason for their quality not to prevail – despite the (massive) challenge of playing on the road and with a South African referee as well.
The Crusaders showed amazing defense all season, flirting with perfection in the way they protected their try line, proof of that being the fact that they allowed only 13 points in their two playoff matches. This will be key against a Lions side that likes to run and capitalize on errors in the opposition’s line. Crusaders won`t give them that.
The Lions certainly can`t afford to fall down like they did in the first half of the Hurricanes and they probably won`t, but they would need 80 minutes of perfect rugby to win against such a mighty team like the Crusaders.
Look for the visitors to dominate with their defense and their forwards, probably letting the Lions have most of the ball and wearing them out, forcing them to concede costly penalties and capitalizing with their excellent counter attacking game.
Look for a great final between the two best teams of this Super Rugby season, but the Crusaders defense should eventually frustrate the Lions and the visitors should pull away. 9 units seems like a proper stake on this bet. My tip is Crusaders to win. Prediction: Lions – Crusaders 22 – 28.