Make us proud, Lions
THE Super Rugby competition has struggled to sustain the interest of fans this year with its convoluted, and in some ways patently unfair, format. But no one can argue that in the end two of the competition’s best teams, the Lions and the Crusaders, will be scrapping it out in Joburg tomorrow in the final. And what a scrap it promises to be. In the one corner you have the Lions, who have won over the hearts and minds of South African rugby fans with their wonderful 15-man approach, their exuberance and their passion.
They smile when they run on to the field, they smile when they dump opponents in the tackle, they smile when they cross the tryline, they smile when the final whistle blows. How can you not love the Lions? In the other corner are the legendary Crusaders from New Zealand with the magical title of “seven-times champions” emblazoned across their chests.
The Crusaders have always expertly blended defence and attack into a pure form of rugby.
Although All Blacks captain Kieran Read and Israel Dagg are two of the sport’s great game breakers, it is the team culture of the Crusaders that makes them what they are.
It will also be a poignant moment for Lions coach Johan Ackermann, who will leave for overseas after the game.
Ackermann took charge of a no-name, no-glamour team four years ago, and now he has taken them to the brink of Super Rugby glory.
Last weekend, it was very disappointing to see a crowd of less than 30 000 watch the Lions down the Hurricanes in the semi-final. There will be no such problem this week. The match is a sell-out, and the roars of about 65 000 Joburgers will be like an extra man on the field for the home side.
Regional pride is still a big factor in South African rugby, and that is not always a bad thing.
However, tomorrow the Lions can be assured that all South Africans will be cheering them on – from Cape Town to the furthest corners of our land, where, perhaps, they may have to listen to the game on a crackling radio.
Make us smile one more time, you brave Lions.