PREVIEW: Crusaders v Lions (Final)

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Thursday, August 2, 2018    Getty Images

Match details: Crusaders v Lions, 7.35pm Saturday 4 August, AMI Stadium, Christchurch. TICKETS.

WON: Crusaders 10, Lions 3
LAST TIME: Crusaders 14, Lions 8 (2 April 2018)


There’s no doubting that the best two teams from the playoffs have made it through to the final. Both teams were convincing in the playoffs with the Crusaders beating the Sharks 40-10 in their quarterfinal and taking out the Hurricanes 30-12 in last week’s semifinal. The Lions were just as comfortable in taking out the Jaguares 40-23 and the Waratahs 44-26.

There’s a number of huge head-to-head battles across the park that will help to decide this clash. One of the biggest will come at hooker where the world’s two premier rakes go toe-to-toe. While always regarded as a solid set piece exponent, Codie Taylor has taken his ball-playing game to another level this year. He will face his biggest test of the year against Lions cult hero Malcolm Marx. Marx is an absolute powerhouse and is just as effective at the breakdown as his with ball in hand and holding up the Lions powerful scrum.
While both teams boast a set of scintillating backs, it is upfront where this final will truly be won. The Lions have an imposing pack that loves to ruck, maul and scrum. Crusaders loose forward Matt Todd noted that the Lions were one of the best mauling teams in the competition: "It's a real momentum changer for them not just tries, but also getting field position for them and when they were under the pump at the beginning of that game they turned to their maul to get momentum back.


There will be fireworks out wide with the Crusaders pairing of Seta Tamanivalu and George Bridge facing up to Ruan Combrink and Courtnall Skosan. Bridge has crossed for 15 tries this season and needs one more to equal the all-time Super Rugby try scoring record of 16 in a single season. The Lions boast a huge weapon on their bench in the form of Aphiwe Dyantyi. Dyantyi has been one of the stars of Super Rugby in his debut season and showed his danger with a breath-taking individual try against the Waratahs last week.
The Lions have scored 87 tries this season, more than any other team in the competition but just one more than the Crusaders (86)


While everything seems to be pointing towards a Crusaders victory, you cannot underestimate the Lions. The Johannesburg-based side would have learned a lot from their final appearances in 2016 and 2017 and keen to end their title drought. They have arrived in Christchurch with an air of confidence and boast the only pack in Super Rugby that can match the Crusaders All Blacks-laden pack. The key for the Lions will be to stick with the Crusaders for 80 minutes and watch out for the danger periods just before and after halftime.

15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Sam Whitelock (capt), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Reserves: Sam Anderson-Heather/Andrew Makalio, Tim Perry, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, Braydon Ennor.

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrink, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Reserves: 16 Corne Fourie, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 23 Howard Mnisi