The Lions’ sensational Super Rugby campaign reaches a climax this morning when they face the Hurricanes in bitterly cold conditions in the final in Wellington. Having thumped New Zealand’s Crusaders and Highlanders in their two play-off ties leading to the final, the Lions will certainly enter the final with credibility.
They have also been boosted this week by the news that inspirational skipper Warren Whiteley is fit after a calf injury sidelined him for the semifinal. The final presents Johan Ackermann’s troops with the perfect opportunity to atone for their loss to the Hurricanes earlier in the competition – a 50-17 hammering at Ellis Park.
Having lost to the Crusaders and Highlanders earlier in the competition, they have avenged those losses in the play-offs. Now they have a chance to correct the Hurricanes result.
The Lions’ training preparations have been disrupted this week after they flew halfway across the world, but the consistency and teamwork they have shown all season will give them a fighting chance against the dangerous Hurricanes, who have lost two finals.
It’s not going to be easy. From the SA franchises, only the Bulls – in 2007, 2009 and 2010 – have won the Super Rugby title. All those victories, though, were on home soil. Only the seven-time champion Crusaders – in 2000 in Canberra – have won a Super Rugby final on foreign soil. Win or lose this morning, the Lions can hold their heads up high.