STRAEULI: THIS IS A GI­ANT LEAP FOR SA RUGBY

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

A CHANCE to win the ti­tle for all the Lions fans – but also for the whole of South Africa! That’s the word from Lions chief ex­ec­u­tive Ru­dolf Straeuli, who’s played an in­stru­men­tal part in help­ing to turn the union around af­ter they were rel­e­gated from Su­per Rugby in 2013. The Lions fin­ished top of the over­all Su­per Rugby stand­ings af­ter win­ning 14 of 15 games dur­ing the sea­son and will play all their re­main­ing matches at El­lis Park. A year ago, af­ter fin­ish­ing sec­ond on the log, the Lions won at home against the Cru­saders and High­landers in the quar­ter and semi-fi­nals re­spec­tively, but lost to the Hur­ri­canes in the fi­nal, in Welling­ton. “It’s a good feel­ing know­ing the team will play at home for as long as they stay in the com­pe­ti­tion. The Hur­ri­canes did us a favour by beat­ing the Cru­saders so we’re in a good po­si­tion to take it as far as pos­si­ble, which we in­tend to do,” said Straeuli. He, how­ever, pointed out that the job ahead for the Lions was still a big one. “Play­ing at home helps, but it is no guar­an­tee of win­ning. I lost (the Su­per Rugby ti­tle) to a Bryan Ha­bana try af­ter the hooter had sounded, let’s not for­get that,” Straeuli said about the 2007 fi­nal when he coached the Sharks to a Dur­ban fi­nal against the Bulls, just to lose in the dying mo­ments. Straeuli said he wanted Lions fans to come out in their num­bers and sup­port the team. “The team have done ev­ery­thing they could have to get to here ... now the fans must get be­hind them,” he said. “We’re go­ing to take it one week, and one match, at a time. This might be one small step for the Lions, but with the Sharks and Storm­ers also in the play­offs, this is a gi­ant leap for South African rugby. “Hope­fully in the com­ing weeks we can build on what the Spring­boks did dur­ing June (against France, win­ning the se­ries 3-0), and some­one wins the ti­tle for the whole of South Africa. We need more of that feel-good spirit in our coun­try.” – JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

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