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The final: five things to look forward to

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Monday, August 1, 2016    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Both teams topped their conference and comprehensively won their crunch knockout games. Now all that remains is one final hurdle to hoist the Super Rugby trophy aloft for the first time. Here’s a few things we are looking forward to about the final.

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Head-to-head battles
There will be no shortage of star power as some of New Zealand’s best players clash with the best South Africa has to offer. The most influential battle will no doubt be at first five-eighth where Beauden Barrett and Elton Jantjies square off. Both pivots were at the top of their game in their respective semi-finals and will be looking to spark their teams to glory. Out wide, the battle between Lions speedster Courtney Skosan and Cory Jane will be mouth-watering while Victor Vito faces an immense challenge in the form of the talismanic Warren Whiteley (fitness pending). Another intriguing clash will be at halfback where the powerful TJ Perenara takes on the dynamic Francois de Klerk.

A new champion

History will be made when a first time champion lifts the trophy on Saturday night. It is the Hurricanes third final appearance after losing out to the Crusaders in the infamous fog final in 2006 and coming unstuck against the Highlanders in Wellington last year. The Hurricanes are the only New Zealand team to have not won a Super Rugby title and will be eager to erase the memories of last year’s loss to the Highlanders. The Lions have traditionally been one of the weaker South African sides and make their first Super Rugby final appearance on Saturday.
Vito 100
French bound loose forward Victor Vito makes his 100th appearance for the Hurricanes on Saturday night. Vito has been one of the Hurricanes top performers since debuting in 2009 and has the chance to mark his 100th appearance with a Super Rugby title. If the Hurricanes can get over the line, it will complete a remarkable sporting fairy tale for Vito in his last match for the Hurricanes.

Packed Cake Tin
The atmosphere will be electric as over 35,000 pack Westpac Stadium to cheer the Hurricanes onto Super Rugby glory. In last year’s final, thousands of Highlanders fans were on hand as the Highlanders stunned the home side. This year, it will be a sea of yellow and black as the Hurricanes face the Johannesburg-based Lions. 

Potent try-scorers
With 81 tries so far this season, no team has scored more tries in a single Super Rugby season than the Lions. With play maker Elton Jantjies working his magic, the Lions potent outside backs have been in prolific form. On the wing, Courtnall Skosan has crossed for 10 tries while the dynamic midfield pairing of Lionel Mapoe and Rohan Janse van Rensburg have scored 19 tries between them. For the Hurricanes, Beauden Barrett has been a constant threat with James Marshall, Cory Jane, Julian Savea and Jason Woodward all providing potency out wide. Although finals are traditionally tight affairs, don’t expect either side to shy from their natural attacking instinct in this match.