super rugby final
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA – MARCH 24: Malcolm Marx of Lions hands off Nicolas Sanchez of Jaguares during a match between Jaguares and Lions as part of the sixth round of Super Rugby at Jose Amalfitani Stadium on March 24, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Gabriel Rossi/Getty Images)

Steve Hansen, coach of the New Zealand national rugby team, has warned against Crusader’s overconfidence in the Super Rugby 2018 final, set to take place on Saturday.

The bookies have said that the Johannesburg based Lions team will fail spectacularly in the final matchup against the formidable Christchurch Crusaders.

Rugby analysts and supporters alike haven’t given the Lions much of chance at lifting the trophy in New Zealand.

It’s a daunting task: The Crusaders have won the competition eight times before, and are the current title holders. They’ve also won 87% of all their Super Rugby games in this year’s competition.

Lions Super Rugby final: Third time lucky?

The Lions are definitely the underdogs going into this year’s Super Rugby final. Compared to the Crusaders, the Lions have only managed to win 56% of their games this year.

However, the Lions are the top try scorers in this year’s competition, and they’re the only South Africa team to have made it through to the semi-finals.

This also isn’t the Lions’ first rodeo: This will be the third consecutive time the Jo’burger’s face off in a Super Rugby final.

And while they’ve left both previous encounters empty-handed, the Lions will be hoping that the third time’s a charm.

‘Pretty good Lions side’ – Steve Hansen

Speaking at a news conference in Wellington on Wednesday, as reported on by Sport24, Hansen maintained that the Lions have the ability to trump the Crusaders in Saturday’s Super Rugby final, saying:

“So you would expect the Crusaders to go out favourites and rightly so because they’ve played some wonderful football. But there’s no guarantee they’re going to win it. They’re going have to go out and earn it and that’s a pretty good Lions side, I think.”

Hansen elaborated on his predictions, noting that the Lions team is formidable in set-piece gameplay, and possesses an inventive backline strategy, saying:

“When you look at a contest like this one you say to yourself who’s going to dominate the scrums and you can’t really say; who’s going to dominate the lineouts and you can’t really say. So it’s who’s going to turn up on the night and get it right. Who’s going to supply the right amount and right quality of ball to the backs and both backlines are quite exciting.”

According to South African bookmakers, BET.co.za, the Lions can be backed at 7/1 while the draw is on offer at 40/1.

While the odds are heavily stacked against the touring Lions side, the result will be determined when the final whistle blows on this year’s Super Rugby tournament – and in the words of Hansen; until then, it’s anybody’s game.

The 2018 Super Rugby final takes place in Christchurch, New Zealand at the Rugby League Park, on 4 August. It will screen at locally at 09:35.