Lions face big New Zealand test
LEADING contenders the Golden Lions and Canterbury Crusaders are one game away from playing off for this season’s Super Rugby title after contrasting victories over the weekend.
South Africa’s Lions, who finished top of the regular season standings, needed a huge late penalty goal from Ruan Combrinck to scrape home 23- 21 over the Coastal Sharks in Johannesburg.
The Lions will face a New Zealand team for the first time this season, against defending champions Wellington Hurricanes, in next weekend’s semi- finals.
If the Lions win they will host the final on August 5.
The Crusaders, bidding for their eighth Super Rugby crown, ground out a 17- 0 win over the Highlanders in driving rain and managed to reach the last four.
The Crusaders have to negotiate an all- New Zealand semi- final against the Chiefs to advance to the final.
Shaun Stevenson scored a try four minutes from time to seal a 17- 11 win for the Chiefs over South Africa’s Western Stormers in Cape Town to claim their semi- final spot.
The Lions, beaten only once this season, were facing a shock elimination at Ellis Park until Combrinck landed an angled 58- metre kick under massive pressure to squeeze home over the Sharks.
The Sharks, dismissed as nohopers after a 17- point regular- season home loss to the Lions the previous weekend, built a 14- 3 halftime lead and were one point ahead when Combrinck struck.
The Crusaders scored two tries in wild weather to overcome the Highlanders in the South Island derby.
“It was hugely satisfying,” coach Scott Robertson said.