Make us proud, Lions

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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.

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