Saders are just so good

De Bruin: They’re much more clin­i­cal than the other New Zealand teams

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

THERE is a very good rea­son why the Cru­saders are the most suc­cess­ful team in Su­per Rugby history, and why they pose the ultimate chal­lenge to the Lions: they are the best or­gan­ised and most clin­i­cal of all the teams in the com­pe­ti­tion.

That’s ac­cord­ing to Lions as­sis­tant coach Swys de Bruin, who has been tasked with find­ing the se­cret to get­ting the bet­ter of the seven-time cham­pi­ons and four-time run­ners-up – with­out ques­tion the most dom­i­nant side in the 21 years that Su­per Rugby has been go­ing. The teams meet in the 2017 fi­nal at El­lis Park on Satur­day. De Bruin,

pic­tured, said this week that the men from Christchurch are with­out ques­tion in a dif­fer­ent class to the four other New Zealand sides – the Blues, Chiefs, High­landers and Hur­ri­canes, the out­fit the Lions got the bet­ter of in last week­end’s semi-fi­nal and the 2016 cham­pi­ons.

“When you do the anal­y­sis on the Cru­saders you re­alise why they have been such a strong team over the years. They’re just so much more clin­i­cal than the other teams. They hang on to the ball for long pe­ri­ods, they prize that pos­ses­sion, and they re­ally work hard for each other,” said De Bruin.

“They’re an ef­fort team with an ex­cel­lent de­fen­sive sys­tem, run by their head coach (Scott Robert­son), so in a way they are the most con­ser­va­tive of the New Zealand sides. The other teams will give you a few op­por­tu­ni­ties, like the Hur­ri­canes did last week­end, be­cause of the way they play, but not the Cru­saders ... you’ve got to work for your chances.”

The Lions though showed in the quar­ter-fi­nal last year at El­lis Park that they have the game, play­ers and be­lief to get the bet­ter of the mul­ti­ple cham­pi­ons. They out-scored the vis­i­tors five tries to three to win 42-25 and they’d go on to also beat the High­landers (4230) in the semi-fi­nals.

Those per­for­mances, as well as play­ing in the fi­nal in Welling­ton, and fea­tur­ing in a few big Cur­rie Cup games in re­cent sea­sons has steeled the Lions play­ers for what will be their big­gest – and most pres­sure-filled – match of their ca­reers. “A home fi­nal ... phew, it feels al­most un­be­liev­able,” said De Bruin. “It’s nice, a bless­ing, and you can see how ex­cited the guys are. Cru­cially though they’ve been in this po­si­tion a few times now and they know what to ex­pect. They’ve re­ally ma­tured as a group over the last five years, so the good thing is ev­ery­thing we do this week is like any other week. The only dif­fer­ence is we don’t have to travel ... and a big home crowd awaits us.”

De Bruin said the team had adopted a motto of “less is more” this week. “You can’t do much at this stage of the sea­son,” he said. “The key is to fo­cus on what needs to be done over 80 min­utes, that’s all that mat­ters. And we’ve told the play­ers to en­joy ev­ery mo­ment this week.

“For game day, the mes­sage will be sim­ple ... never stop play­ing. We saw last week­end (against the Hur­ri­canes) how cru­cial ev­ery minute is. A lot can hap­pen in 10 min­utes.”

De Bruin, who’s been head coach Jo­han Ack­er­mann’s right-hand man since 2012, will take over the hot seat when Ack­er­mann leaves the fran­chise next week to take up a po­si­tion with Glouces­ter in Eng­land.

PIC­TURE: BACK­PAGE P IX

OVER THE LINE: Seta Ta­mani­valu of the Cru­saders scores breaks past the tackle of Tawera Kerr-Bar­low of the Chiefs in their Su­per Rugby semi-fi­nal en­counter last week­end.

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