Cru­cial match for the Lions

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

ONE down, two to go. That’s how the Lions of Jo­han Ack­er­mann will have as­sessed their sit­u­a­tion ahead of this week­end’s Su­per Rugby semi-fi­nal show­down with the Hur­ri­canes. And what a match it prom­ises to be.

It’s a re­peat of last year’s fi­nal; just this time it’ll be played in warm and dry con­di­tions of Joburg where last year it was con­tested in the wet, wind and cold of Welling­ton. The Lions never re­ally stood a chance, not af­ter fly­ing half­way across the world for the match, and they duly went down 20-3.

The con­di­tions this Satur­day will cer­tainly be more favourable for the Lions, but then the Hur­ri­canes, too, won’t mind a jot play­ing in the dry Highveld air.

They’re a side that won com­fort­ably in roundrobin play in Joburg last sea­son (50-17) so they’ll have good mem­o­ries of tak­ing on this Lions team and on top of that they’ll go into the match as the lead­ing try-scor­ing side in Su­per Rugby this year.

That said, the Lions haven’t lost at El­lis Park since go­ing down to the Hur­ri­canes on that day in April last sea­son; that’s a run of 14 home games with­out de­feat. It’s a record to be proud of and one that cer­tainly helped them across the line last week­end, in the quar­ter-fi­nal against the Sharks.

The Dur­ban­ites pro­duced their best ef­fort of an up-and-down sea­son to rat­tle the Lions, who ar­guably de­liv­ered one of their poorer per­for­mances of a mem­o­rable sea­son.

But the fact they got up to win, thanks to Ruan Com­brinck’s late penalty, will be a ma­jor boost ahead of the Canes clash… they’ll know they can’t surely play worse than they did last week­end.

If they ever needed a wake-up call the Sharks pro­vided it and the Lions will hope­fully be back to their best this week­end.

Let’s not for­get they’re not only play­ing to be­come South Africa’s sec­ond fran­chise to win Su­per Rugby, they also want to give their in­spi­ra­tional coach the per­fect send off be­fore he leaves the team at the end of the com­pe­ti­tion.

One more win this week­end and Joburg will get its fi­nal and then who’d bet against the Lions go­ing all the way.

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