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The Battle Of Titans: Super Rugby Final Preview

After a long and grueling season, the Super Rugby final is here. Last week’s playoff matches were premier matchups with phenomenal rugby throughout. After finishing #1 and #2 at the end of the regular season, the Lions will face the Crusaders for the championship. The Lions finished at the top of the tables, so they have the heavy advantage of playing in Johannesburg. This is the first Super Rugby final to be played outside of New Zealand since 2014, and the first time since 2010 in South Africa.

A second half resurgence put the Lions in the Final

All season long, there were many complaints about the Lions’ schedule. They were viewed as having a weak schedule with no New Zealand opponents. Last Saturday was the Lions’ first match against a kiwi team in a rematch of last year’s final. The Hurricanes jumped to a commanding lead in the first half, before Elton Jantjies and the Lions came roaring back. In the final 50 minutes, the Lions scored 41 points to the Hurricanes’ 7. Jantjies had a powerful performance with 75% kicking as well as a try.

A strong performance by Jantjies will be essential for a successful day by the Lions. The Crusaders’ defense is very strong, holding the Highlanders empty for points in the quarterfinals. The match will not be won for the Lions with repeated phases inside the 5m line. The Lions will need to use their fast, powerful backfield to break through the Crusaders’ line to score their points. The Lions’ backs are all-stars from 9-15, and they will need every one of them on point in this match. Courtnall Skosan and Ruan Combrinck had a good performance last week, but most of the tries against the Hurricanes were made by the forwards, as well as a phenomenal 169 meters ran by full back Andries Coetzee.

The biggest surprise of last week’s match was the Lions’ performance in the scrum. The Lions forwards were strong and stable throughout the match allowing for a perfect rating on the day. They were not strong enough to attack well with a Hurricanes put it, but were respectable enough for the match. This week, their forwards will be in for a serious test against the best scrum and lineout in Super Rugby.

The Crusaders have maintained a steady hand of dominance in the playoffs

The Crusaders are a truly amazing team. Early in the season, they had a difficult time, having to make late comebacks to win their matches. In recent weeks, they have become one of the most dominant forces in rugby on the planet. The Crusaders did not allow a try through 158 minutes of playoff rugby until the match against the Chiefs was well in hand. Their defense is absolutely dominant in all of their matches. Only two matches all season have seen a team score more than 25 points against them. Their defensive power combined with a league-leading scrum and lineout allowed the Crusaders to finish the regular season with a near perfect record.

The matchup of the weekend will be Elton Jantjies against the powerful Richie Mo’unga. Jantjies is the better kicker, where Mo’unga is the better ball carrier. These two are some of the best fly halves in the southern hemisphere. Another good matchup will be all four wings for both teams, with Israel Dagg and Seta Tamanivalu representing the Crusaders. The Lions wingers dominate in meters made where the Crusaders’ pairing was responsible for 3 of the Crusaders 4 tries.

The Crusaders’ meters were much lower than the Lions’, simply because their possession was so much lower. The Crusaders maintained possession only 33% of the match, where the Lions had 69%. With that much more time, the Lions’ meters will look much more impressive. The Crusaders’ possession is an odd turn as throughout the season they have maintained a majority of possession throughout their matches. If the Crusaders allow the Lions that much possession again it is very likely the Lions will make them pay for it.

Two dominant performances come down to one final moment

Both teams have had great seasons, with combined losses better than the number three team. This match will be an absolute classic with two opposing styles of rugby clashing in this amazing final.

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David Bradham

Active duty Navy, have a true passion for Rugby.
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