Super Rugby Final – 2017 Preview

Best Bet 1: Crusaders to win @ $1.86 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 2: Will there be a drop goal – Yes @ $6.00 – Sportsbet

LIONS ($1.95) VS CRUSADERS ($1.86)

After 141 games and over 11,280 minutes of rugby, it all comes down to the Super Rugby Final at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday night (12:00 Midnight EST), where the Lions host the Crusaders. The Lions find themselves in this position after finishing the regular season in first place and last weekend, they overturned a 19-point Hurricanes lead to defeat the reigning Champions, 44-29 in a fascinating encounter. The Crusaders make the trek across the Pacific and Indian Oceans to face the Lions for the first time this season, having defeated the Chiefs 27 – 13 in Christchurch last weekend. The Crusaders have a dominant 14-4 record against the Lions, although the team from Johannesburg did manage to beat the red and blacks last year in a quarter-final played at Ellis Park, 42 – 25.

Lions: WWLWWWBWWWWWWWBWBWWW
Crusaders: WWWWWWBWWWWWWWWBLWW

Lions: Jacques van Rooyen, Malcolm Marx, Ruan Dreyer, Andries Ferreira, Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel (Captain), Kwagga Smith, Ruan Ackermann, Ross Cronje, Elton Jantjies, Courtnall Skosan, Harold Vorster, Lionel Mapoe, Ruan Combrinck, Andries Coetzee

Replacements: Akker van der Merwe, Corne Fourie, Johannes Jonker, Lourens Erasmus, Cyle Brink, Faf de Klerk, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Sylvian Mahuza

Crusaders: Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock (Captain), Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd, Kieran Read, Bryn Hall, Richie Mo’unga, Seta Tamanivalue, Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, Israel Dagg, David Havili

Replacements: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, George Bridge

Prediction:

The Lions road to to their second Super Rugby final has been nothing short of outstanding. In 2012, the Lions lost a promotion/relegation match to the Kings, which saw them ousted from the competition the following year. Since their return to Super Rugby in 2014, coach Johan Ackermann has guided them to 12th, 8th, 2nd and 1st place regular season finishes. Their attacking efficiency is exceptional and it is no surprise that they have the biggest weekly crowd of any team in the competition. As the old clichè goes, their match against the Hurricanes was a game of two halves. Down 19 – 3, one of the Lions players of the year, lock Franco Mostert, stole two consecutive line-outs when the Hurricanes were hot on the attack. One more try would’ve buried the home team, but to their credit they roared back outscoring the Hurricanes 41-7 in the final 42 minutes of the fixure. They dominated all of the statistics and held onto the ball, forcing the ‘Canes to make 173 tackles to their 63. They pressured the visitors into a staggering 32 handling errors, which is just unfathomable for a New Zealand team. Lions coach Johan Ackermann has named an unchanged line-up for the season finale, but one wonders in a game of this magnitude, whether they’ll be able to cope without their inspirational skipper Warren Whiteley.

I feel like I’ve said it a million times before, but the Crusaders are the perennial super powers of this competition, having won seven trophies – four more than any other franchise. In saying that, the last time they tasted flory was nine long years ago, so many of the current squad don’t know what it is like to win the coveted trophy. The Crusaders are synonymous for having an All Blacks-laden pack and one in which that can dominate the set pieces. Be it in the scrums or in the line-outs, they have enough skill and experience to cause the Lions a problem in this area. This year, they also possess a youthful backline that has been given a license to thrill by coach Scott Robertson. Young flyhalf Richie Mo’unga deserves a lot of credit for marshalling his troops around the field, but inside centre Ryan Crotty is without doubt the unsung hero in the backline. Seta Tamanivalu, capped three times by the All Blacks in the centres, has been a revelation on the wing and his power and pace was evident in his two tries against the Chiefs. There is a great mix of exuberance, power and guile in the back line and their no fear attitude has helped evolve the Crusaders brand post the Todd Blackadder-era. Crusaders coach Scott Robertson also named an unchanged line-up for this fixture, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both of Kieran Read and Owen Frank are ruled out just before kick-off with knee and achilles issues.

The tournament itself this year appears to be in a worse position than last year with three teams due to exit the competition and crowd numbers dwindling, but the on-field play continues to be a real treat to watch. This match will be played in front of a capacity 61,500 crowd at Ellis Park and given the upcoming personnel departures and the seasons both teams have had, it is a fitting finale: 1 vs 2. The Crusaders were all the rage during the regular season, storming to 14 straight victories before an understrength line-up lost to the Hurricanes in the final round. Quietly, the Lions went about their business and eclipsed that unbeaten run of the Crusaders, currently riding a 15 match win streak, which is the longest streak in their history by a long way. This Final will resemble a Test match atmosphere with so many players on each side bound to clash in upcoming Rugby Championship. The Lions have so much to be proud of and they had to dig exceptionally deep last week to beat the Hurricanes. Although they have transformed into a provincial powerhouse, the Crusaders have the tight five to rattle the home side and I certainly can’t see them relinquishing a lead like the Hurricanes did should they get their noses in front. The Crusaders will need to take the crowd out of the game early because the Lions have proved that they are masters at the death scoring 30 tries in the final quarter (20 minutes) of games this season, whilst only conceding five in the process. The high altitude will certainly come into effect at some point, and even though the Lions are more than capable of causing the ‘upset’, I believe the Crusaders will become the first team ever to cross the Indian Ocean and win the Super Rugby Final. My heart says the Lions but my head says the Crusaders.

Predicted result: Crusaders to win @ $1.86 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 1: Crusaders to win @ $1.86 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 2: Will there be a drop goal – Yes @ $6.00 – Sportsbet

Note: If Kieran Read is a late scratching due to a knee injury – I would back the Lions.

Author

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Glenn

Glenn has followed rugby union for 15 years and has expert knowledge on the game freely committing to over 500 viewing hours a year. Having played with and against some current Super Rugby players and International superstars, he understands the game, the players and the laws inside out. Having been born in South Africa, spent time in New Zealand and currently living in Australia, Glenn lives and breathes rugby. With so many different tournaments happening around the world simultaneously and the addition of Rugby Sevens to the Olympic program, there are always plenty of healthy betting options available. An obsession, a passion, call it what you will, Glenn enjoys sharing his insight, opinions and predictions with anyone who wants to listen.

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