The mighty Crusaders are being favoured to retain their Super Rugby title when they host the Lions from Johannesburg in Christchurch on Saturday.
The game is a repeat of last year’s final, which the Saders won at Emirates Airline Park, aided by Jaco Peyper’s decision to red card Kwagga Smith for his collision with opposition full back David Havilli.
There is no room for sentiment for the Crusaders, who have chosen not to included the record setting Wyatt Crockett in their 23. Nobody would’ve really criticised Scott Robertson had Crockett being included, but the 200 cap veteran will have to watch from the stands, with Tim Perry and Joe Moody preferred to do duty at loosehead.
Few are giving the Lions any chance- they have a bad record against NZ teams in Super Rugby this season. But this is effectively the last chance at glory for several team members. The resurgence started by John Mitchell and continued by Johan Ackermann, with Swys de Bruin at the helm of affairs now, has seen the Lions make three consecutive Super Rugby finals. They lost to the Hurricanes in New Zealand in 2016 and would’ve taken lessons from that humbling and the loss to the Saders last year.
This is a battle between Teams 1 and 2 on the log- the Saders beat the Sharks and the Hurricanes in their playoff ties, while the Lions saw off the Jaguares and the Waratahs.
Odds:- Crusaders 1/8, Lions 9/1