The 2017 Super Rugby season has come down to this match and the winner of the Lions v Crusaders will be the Super Rugby champion for 2017.
The Lions host the Super Rugby final as they finished ahead of the Crusaders on points at the end of the regular season.
Currently, the Lions enjoy a 14-game winning streak; only twice in Super Rugby history has any team won longer. That is the 2003 Crusaders with 15 wins and the 2006 Crusaders, with 16.
The Crusaders have to do what no team has ever done before if they want to lift the Super Rugby trophy for the eighth time.
Despite losing just one game during the regular season, the Crusaders must head to South Africa to face the Lions in Johannesburg in Sunday’s final.
No team has ever travelled across the Indian Ocean and won a final.
On five occasions a team has made the trip from South Africa to Australia or New Zealand, and vice versa, and each time they have lost. The Lions were the last team to make the trip and head home with nothing, losing to the Hurricanes in last year’s final.
The Lions were the last team to make the trip and head home with nothing, losing to the Hurricanes in last year’s final.
Only one team has won a Super Rugby final outside of their own country. Fourteen teams have played a final outside their own country with 13 losing.
The Crusaders are the only team to win the title outside their own country, claiming the 2000 title in Canberra with a 20-19 victory.
The Crusaders last played in Johannesburg last July, losing to the Lions in the quarterfinal, 42-25.
We are waiting for the kick-off.
1.00: BEEP! BEEP! We are underway at Ellis Park where today’s final will be watched by 61,500 South African fans. The Lions last won a Super Rugby tournament in 1993 when it was the Super 10.
3.00: The Lions have already counter-attacked from deep and gone to their driving maul. They have a five-man lineout on the Saders’ 10-metres.
4.00: MISS! Elton Jantjies attempts an early drop-goal, but he pushes the kick wide. The Kiwi’s rush-defence put the Bok flyhalf off.
6.00: The Lions get the put-in to the first scrum of the game. It goes down on Joe Moody and Ruan Dreyer’s side. Moody could not get the bind, so we have a reset.
8.00: TRY Seta Tamanivalu! A mistake on the Crusaders’ 22 by the Lions led to the winger racing 75 metres down the near touchline to put his team on the board with his 10th try of the season. The Lions were scrappy at the breakdown, losing the ball in a similar fashion as against the Hurricanes: 0-5
9.00: The conversion is good by Richie Mo’unga: 0-7
10.00: Big mistake – again – from Jantjies; the standoff miskick leads to the visitors getting a scrum on halfway, in centre field. The scrum goes down again, but Jaco Peyper does not penalise Dreyer.
12.00: TRY Jack Goodhue! The Crusaders spread the ball wide from the breakdown. Codie Taylor and Ryan Crotty’s initial bursts set up the play. Eventually, Kieran Read drew two defenders and put the centre away: 0-12
13.00: Miss! Mo’unga can’t add the touchline conversion: 0-12
16.00: The Crusaders are inside the Lions’ 22, and going through the phases. The ball goes wide but Israel Dagg loses the ball forward, trying to keep the play alive. That was too close for the home team.
18.00: Moody is penalised for collapsing the scrum. Ruan Combrinck clears the danger, kicking to the 10-metres line. Courtnall Skosan is pinged for obstructive running. The Saders have the ball and clear.
21.00: Crusaders have the lineout on the Lions’ 22. Read loses the ball which is hacked forward by Harold Vorster. The counter-attack comes to a stop with another knock on by the Lions. Ruan Ackermann carried strongly in the build up but was stopped by a tackle from Sam Whitelock.
22.00: The New Zealanders are winning the battle of the breakdown by not committing more than one or two players. They are allowing their defence to spread, then using the rush defence to put the Lions out of their comfort zone. The South Africans are struggling with this ploy despite knowing the visitors would play this way.
24.00: The Lions are penalised and David Havili will take a shot from 55 metres.
25.00: MISS! It’s wide from the fullback, the Lions survived going down three scores, but they are all over the place.
26.00: Jaco Kriel gets the option of two penalties in different areas of the field. Ross Cronje lost the ball forward, leading to the penalty advantage, running out. Jantjies will take a shot at goal from centre field and about 51 metres.
27.00: PENALTY! Jantjies makes no mistake with the long range kick: 3-12
28.00: Jordan Taufua runs over Cronje, who is down and in pain. The Crusaders put boot to ball but Kriel saves the day with some great cover defence. Cronje is up, now.
29.00: HELD UP! Great work by the Lions forwards. It was Jantjies who tackled Crotty, keeping him up and waiting for the support to help him out. The leg drive by the centre is good, but he can’t get to the ground.
31.00: The Crusaders go wide, sending the ball through the hands to Havili, who kicks deep, but the ball is out on the full. The Lions take it quickly and start a counter-attack which leads to a penalty after Tamanivalu slapped the ball down deliberately. The Lions kick to the corner: massive call!
33.00: Malcolm Marx finds Kriel and the Lions set up a driving maul. The initial shove is repelled by the Crusaders. The Lions break off and are stopped when Andries Ferreira is tackled. The ball is stolen and the Crusaders get the penalty, and clear.
35.00: Accidental offsides from the visitors. The Lions have another opportunity before half-time to get some more points.
36.00: Cronje breaks to the open-side from the scrum. After two phases, Lionel Mapoe loses the ball forward before contact. Poor from the Springbok and poor from the home team. They are too rushed in every thing they do.
38.00: The Crusaders are winning some micro battles, repelling the Lions. Francois Mostert wins another lineout and the Lions counter. David Havili is taken out in the air by Kwagga Smith. The fullback’s hip crashes into the Sevens player’s head and both are down. This could be trouble for Smith.
39.00: RED CARD Kwagga Smith! Massive moment in the game. Jaco Peyper had no choice, he was almost reluctant to give the card but had to after consulting the TMO Marius Jonker.
40.00: MASSIVE SCRUM! The Crusaders bulldoze the Lions, helped by the extra man in the set piece.
41.00: PENALTY! Mo’unga extends his team’s lead after the hooter: 3-15
The half-time score was Lions 3 Crusaders 15
41.00: BEEP! BEEP! We are back underway in Johannesburg for the final 40 minutes of the Super Rugby season. The Lions are up against it after having Kwagga Smith red carded at the end of the first-half for a dangerous tackle on David Havili.
The Lions had to come back from 3-14 against the Sharks in the quarter-final and 3-22 versus the Hurricanes; can they do it again?
42.00: Matt Todd wins another penalty for the Crusaders at the ruck. Franco Mostert carried, but got isolated and surrounded by grey jerseys after the hit.
43.00: TRY Kieran Read! That might be the ballgame. Mo’unga’s cross-kick was gathered by Israel Dagg, who steps and dances his way through. The ball is recycled quickly, passed through Dagg’s hands and the fullback offloads to Read after Todd’s dummy run: 3-20
44.00: Mo’unga can;t miss from in front of the sticks: 3-22
47.00: It’s all Crusaders at Ellis Park; they are getting the calls from Peyper and using the ball better than the Lions, eliminating the silly handling errors while their rush and scramble defence, has been brilliant.
49.00: The Kiwis are asking the Lions to play from deep, an area where the opposition is making too many mistakes as they chase the game.
51.00: The tactics from the seven-times champions has been spot-on. The Lions are pinned deep inside their 22. The scrum is reset. Scott Robinson has made changes to halfback and the front row.
52.00: Ruan Dreyer is penalised for the third time at the scrum and Read points to the posts.
53.00: PENALTY! Mo’unga slots the easy kick, extending the Crusaders’ lead to four scores: 3-25
56.00: There is an element of last year’s Springboks with the Lions; running down blind alleys, kicking poorly, making too many silly handling errors and being tactically outplayed and out-thought.
58.00: The Crusaders are penalised for offsides and hands in the ruck. Jantjies kicks to the corner and the home team will look to power over with their driving maul. They have to score now.
61.00: The lineout was stolen and the Kiwis went down the field. somehow, the Lions get back into a scoring position but are held up in the maul. Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua and Sam Whitelock have been immense in the tight phases.
64.00: TRY Malcolm Marx! The hooker crashes over for his 10th try of the campaign after taking Faf de Klerk’s inside pass. He is substituted off after the celebration: 8-25
65.00: Jantjies slots the difficult touchline conversion: 10-25
69.00: Rohan Janse van Rensburg drops the ball with the tryline at his mercy. Mostert started the move with a break in midfield and charged into the Crusaders’ 22.
73.00: TRY Corne Fourie! The substitute goes over for his first try of this campaign, under the posts, brushing off Whitelock and another defender. It came from Faf de Klerk and Andries Coetzee’s breaks: 15-28
73.00: Jantjies kicks the conversion quickly and races back to halfway: 17-25
76.00: The Crusaders are starting to feel the pain of the thin Highveld air. The Lions get another penalty and will kick deep. The ball is out on the Saders’ 22. The clock is ticking down…
78.00: Sam Whitelock steals another one for his team, but the lions come again, spreading the ball wide and offloading in the tackles.
80.00: Faf de Klerk knocks on at the base of the scrum. Another penalty is awarded to the Crusaders; Mo’unga kicks the ball out and that is the ball game.
The final score is Lions 17 (3) Crusaders 25 (15)
Tries – Marx, Fourie
Pen – Jantjies
Con – Jantjies (2)
Cards – Smith (Red, 39th minute)
Tries – Tamanivalu, Goodhue, Read
Pen – Mo’unga (2)
Con – Mo’unga (2)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (RSA)
Assistant Ref 1: Glen Jackson (NZ)
Assistant Ref 2: Marius van der Westhuizen (RSA)
TMO: Marius Jonker (RSA)
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Albertus Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (captain), 5 Francois Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Francois de Klerk, 22 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
15 David Havili, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Seta Tamanivalu, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 George Bridge.