Cru­saders out to cre­ate a bit of his­tory

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - VATA NGOB­ENI

SO, THE mil­lion-bucks ques­tion is: who will be crowned Su­per Rugby Cham­pi­ons to­mor­row? We asked our In­de­pen­dent Me­dia Rugby Writ­ers for their views ...


Be­sides hav­ing 60 000 ti­tle-hun­gry fans cheer­ing them on, they know ev­ery blade of grass on the turf at El­lis Park. The Cru­saders will run out of steam, like the Canes did. And a 15-match un­beaten run is sig­nif­i­cant and so, too, is the fact that it’s Jo­han Ack­er­mann’s farewell.


His­tory may be against them and ahead of them a Lions team that is yet to lose a Su­per Rugby play-off match at home. How­ever, the Cru­saders will go into to­mor­row’s Su­per Rugby fi­nal de­ter­mined to cre­ate their own bit of his­tory by be­com­ing the first side to cross the In­dian Ocean and win the ti­tle. “This team is dif­fer­ent and it is our chance to make his­tory. We’ve done that, the Cru­saders have paved the way over the years in Su­per Rugby. We’ve cre­ated it and every­one is try­ing to catch. No-one has crossed the ocean and per­formed here on the fi­nal, so it is a great chal­lenge to be the first. We won our first three Su­per Rugby fi­nals away and now we have an­other op­por­tu­nity in front of us to cre­ate our own his­tory again. This group is a spe­cial group,” said

The Lions bring it in ev­ery area: fi­nesse, a solid pack and goal-kicking skill. In fact, the only neg­a­tive thing I can say about the hosts is that I hope their sloppy play-off starts are a thing of the past. Other than that, I see no rea­son why the Lions can’t make it 16 in a row at home to­mor­row.


Cru­saders coach Scott Robert­son af­ter nam­ing an un­changed team yes­ter­day.

While the Cru­saders will be driven by a col­lec­tive ef­fort to suc­ceed and add an eighth ti­tle to their collection, af­ter win­ning their last in 2009, Robert­son also stands on the verge of making his­tory by be­com­ing the first man to win Su­per Rugby as both player and coach af­ter hav­ing played a prom­i­nent role dur­ing the Cru­saders golden years.

“It would be re­ally emo­tional. We’ve re­ceived so many mes­sages of sup­port from the old crew and the re­cent crew have been be­hind us and they know how spe­cial this group is. So to do it as a coach and a player would be some­thing amaz­ing,” Robert­son said.

But the fi­nal won’t be won on sen­ti­ment or emo­tion but rather what the Cru­saders de­liver be­tween the four white lines.

Much of what will un­fold from the New Zealan­ders will be lessons they would have picked up from the Hur­ri­canes’ semi-fi­nal de­feat to the Lions last week­end.

Dis­ci­pline will cer­tainly be key, with the Cru­saders fear­ing the kicking abil­i­ties of the Lions in El­ton Jan­tjies and Ruan Com­brinck. More im­por­tantly though, the Cru­saders would have learnt that out-muscling and out-run­ning the Lions won’t be enough to pre­vent them

The Lions have proven that they have what it takes to beat the best teams in the com­pe­ti­tion. Their am­bi­tion to be cham­pi­ons will also be fu­elled by the emo­tions of this be­ing the last game of coach Jo­han Ack­er­mann’s reign.


be­com­ing only the sec­ond South African side to win Su­per Rugby.

The Cru­saders will have to out­smart the Lions if they are to have any chance of making their own Su­per Rugby his­tory, ac­cord­ing to Robert­son.

“We’ve taken a lot. We know they can punt the ball a mile. And tac­ti­cally, around our kicking abil­ity, we have some big and long kick­ers in our team.

“We must make sure we un­der­stand our strengths and what the Hur­ri­canes did. Ob­vi­ously it was a game of two halves and tac­ti­cally the Lions changed when they needed to.

“So the lessons for us from that game were crit­i­cal. We know that we have to be re­ally smart,” he ex­plained.

My heart is with Jo­han Ack­er­mann but across the board the Cru­saders have bet­ter qual­ity play­ers, man for man. The first 20 min­utes is ab­so­lutely cru­cial. If the Cru­saders get a healthy lead, they will not suc­cumb to a Lions come­back like the Hur­ri­canes did last week. I think the tal­ent of the Cru­saders play­ers will over­come the Lions’ home ground ad­van­tage, and the travel ef­fect.


They have shown they are not afraid of Kiwi teams with a good win in their first en­counter with one this year, the Hur­ri­canes, and the Ki­wis have shown El­lis Park, and al­ti­tude, play a big role when the sec­ond half push usu­ally comes.

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