For the third year in a row, the country’s hopes of a South African Super Rugby winner lies with the Lions, as we enter the semifinal stage of the southern hemisphere tournament.
The Bulls were South Africa’s last Super Rugby winners, when they beat the Stormers in Soweto in 2010 for their third crown.
Regardless of where one’s allegiances lie, you have to give it to the Lions that they have been the country’s best Super Rugby franchise over the last three seasons.
In 2016, they lost four matches in the preliminary stage before losing to the Hurricanes in the final in Wellington.
A year later they lost just once in the round-robin phase before losing a home final to perennial winners, the Crusaders, at Ellis Park. The red card to Kwagga Smith just before halftime effectively ended the contest.
Fast forward to 2018, and today they will be hoping to book a third successive final when they host the Waratahs in the second semifinal. Should the in-form Crusaders take care of the Hurricanes in the earlier semifinal in Christchurch, the final will be played in New Zealand regardless of the Ellis Park result.
Should the Hurricanes win, and Lions win, then a second home final for the Lions will play out next weekend, but the dangerous Waratahs have certainly not come to South Africa to lose.
With two rounds to go, the Lions’ fate wasn’t in their own hands as the Jaguares emerged as outsiders to top the conference.
But results went their way, and the Lions found their roar once again to book a home quarterfinal against the Jaguares last weekend, and then advanced with probably their best showing of the competition in the quarterfinal against the Argentine franchise.
Lions fans are daring to dream again, but first they must take care of the Waratahs this afternoon.