Lions need to tame Hurricanes
SOUTH Africa’s Golden Lions must overcome defending champions Wellington Hurricanes tomorrow if they are to host this year’s Super Rugby decider in their first meeting with New Zealand opposition this season.
The Lions will stay in Johannesburg if they win a rematch of last year’s Wellington final and take on either the Canterbury Crusaders or fellow New Zealanders Waikato Chiefs.
The Crusaders, bidding for a record eight Super Rugby titles, have home advantage in tomorrow’s other semi-final in Christchurch.
The Lions, under outgoing coach Johan Ackermann, have won 15 of their 16 games and finished on top of this season’s standings to claim home ground advantage at Ellis Park should they win through to the final.
It would be only the fourth time a Super Rugby final has been staged in South Africa since 1996.
But the Hurricanes, expected to be strengthened by the return of dynamic All Blacks hooker Dane Coles, will be a tough nut to crack.
Wellington were the last team to beat the Lions at home in Super Rugby, a spanking 50-17 win on April 30 last year.
“The Hurricanes are a team that play in your face,” said Ackermann.
“They like to put teams under pressure and they did that to us last year, so hopefully we’ll handle that pressure better this time.”
Coles, widely regarded as the best hooker in the game, returned to action for the ‘Canes in their quarterfinal win against the Brumbies in Canberra last weekend coming off the bench.
He is expected to start in Johannesburg for the first time since March.
A key match-up will be between the fly-halves, with the Hurricanes playmaker Beauden Barrett up against Elton Jantjes for the Lions.
“Elton has been consistently good this season. He just had a bad game last weekend (against the Sharks), which happens to all 10s,” Hurricanes assistant John Plumtree said. – AFP