Crucial match for the Lions
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.