Warren Whiteley giving direction.
Image: Steve Haag/Gallo Images
The Lions are playing in their third consecutive Super Rugby Final and it just might be third time lucky.
From Elton’s hair to the crocked stadium, here’s what to look out for.
Please Elton, no hairy moments
The Lions have the forwards to go toe-to-toe with the Crusaders. It’s at the back however, where the hosts have an advantage. That’s why Lions’ flyhalf and playmaker Elton Jantjies needs to display the poise and purpose he routinely exudes at Ellis Park. He is yet to sign a contract renewal with the Lions, so there may be the need to go out with a big bang.
Elton Jantjies of the Lions Elton Jantjies of the Lions and team mates celebrate during the Super Rugby match between DHL Stormers and Emirates Lions at DHL Newlands Stadium on May 26, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images
Referee Angus Gardner will well and truly be the man in the middle. The Christchurch crowd is likely to give him an earful every time he rules against the home team. Earlier in the week Lions coach Swys de Bruin pleaded for ‘a fair deal’ in the final and expressed the hope that the Crusaders’ scant regard for the offside line should be policed with greater vigilance. Gardner is a fine ref, but this is his first final.
Last year’s final between the same teams was shaped by a first half event that set the Crusaders on an inexorable path to victory. Kwagga Smith’s red card meant the Lions, who were hoping to take advantage of the Crusaders’ fatigue in the second half, were condemned to gallant losers. It almost goes without saying, in an age of inconsistent application of the law, discipline is key.
The defining moment from last year’s final when Kwagga Smith of the Lions, No7, took out Crusaders fullback David Havili, earning the loose forward a red card which set the home team back. Picture: Gallo Images
Lions’ captain and talisman Warren Whiteley missed the last two Super Rugby finals. On both occasions they lacked the composure to get over the last hurdle but his presence this time means they will have a steady hand at the tiller. The Lions will have the same backline that started last year’s final, while only three names change in the starting pack. Whiteley‘s, is undoubtedly the most significant addition.
The newly renamed Wyatt Crocket Stadium has been the Crusaders’ home since the devastating 2011 earthquake. There are no big stands to properly shield you from the elements and the makeshift ones are made of steel which makes for a cold, inhospitable environment. The players’ change rooms are not located under the stands but some distance outside the stadium. The close proximity of the stands to the playing surface means the crowd is almost part of the action. Mentally, the referee and the Lions, need to put some distance between themselves and the rabid Cantabrians.
In the meantime, Jozi has rallied behind the boys in red and white.
The Lions forwards be like…
5 things that may shape the Super Rugby Final (P.S. Go Lions)
03 August 2018 – 12:03 By Liam Del Carme