The Lions are making their third consecutive appearance in the Super Rugby Final, after losing to the Hurricanes in 2016 and the Crusaders last season. That victory was the eighth time that the Crusaders have won this competition from twelve final appearances, and they are strong favourites to retain their title at AMI Stadium.
Crusaders v Lions Super Rugby Final Prediction
Head to Head Record
These two sides have met on nine occasions, and the New Zealanders have had the better of the fixture, winning eight out of those nine games.
Their first encounter came in May 2009, when the Crusaders ran out as 32-20 winners in South Africa, and they won their next four matches with an average points margin of 21.5.
The Lions did make a game of it against these opponents until their sixth meeting, in the 2016 series, when they made a stirring second half comeback but fell just short, losing 43-37 in Round 6. Three months later, they finally got off the mark against the Crusaders, beating them 42-25 in the quarter-finals, en route to their first final appearance.
Last 9 meetings
- April 2018: Crusaders won 14-8 at Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
- August 2017: Crusaders won 25-17 at Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg
- July 2016: Lions won 42-25 at Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg
- April 2016: Crusaders won 43-17 at Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg
- March 2015: Crusaders won 34-6 at AMI Stadium, Christchurch
- April 2014: Crusaders won 28-7 at Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg
- March 2012: Crusaders won 23-13 at Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
- March 2010: Crusaders won 46-19 at AMI Stadium, Christchurch
- May 2009: Crusaders won 32-20 at Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
The Crusaders have looked imperious this season. Their only defeats came away against the Highlanders and the Hurricanes, but they went undefeated from Round 5 onward, hitting the top of the New Zealand Conference in Round 11 and running away with it by 12 points. Scott Robertson’s side carried that dominant form into the quarter-finals where they brushed aside the Sharks 40-10 before crushing the Hurricanes 30-12 in the semi-finals.
The Lions were able to continue their recent dominance in the South African Conference, and they ended their regular season campaign in fine form, winning three from their final four matches. They followed that strong form with a good performance in their quarter-final against the Jaguares, seeing off a determined fightback by the Argentines, before beating the pick of the Australian Conference, Waratahs 44-26 to reach another final.
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The Crusaders may be the strong favourites going into this game, but they have a significant injury list to contend with. The situation is most serious at hooker, where they had already lost Ben Fennell to a knee injury and Andrew Makalio to a calf tear before Seb Sataiga broke his arm in last weekend’s semi-final, leaving them with just two available hookers in Codie Taylor and Sam Anderson-Heather. Flanker Jordan Taufua is also out with a broken arm.
The Lions have been hit by injury problems throughout the tournament, but they have cleared up at the right time and coach Swys de Bruin should be able to choose from a full-strength squad for this showpiece. Dangerous international winger Aphiwe Dyantyi came off at half-time in the semi-final after scoring a brilliant solo try, but has fully recovered from his hamstring problem, while young flanker Cyle Brink is also fit after an arm injury.
Rugby is an unpredictable game, but all the evidence indicates that the Lions will be up against it in Christchurch this weekend. If this game was taking place in Johannesburg or a neutral venue, their chances would be improved, but at the windy fortress that is the AMI Stadium, they are big outsiders. At this venue, with the crowd behind them, the Crusaders are as close to unbeatable as it comes.
If Lions are to have a sniff of victory here, they will depend hugely on Malcolm Marx. The Springbok international has had a sensational tournament, and was a dominant force in the semi-final, when he crossed the try-line twice. Hooker is the one position in which the Lions have the edge, and their game plan will revolve around securing territory in the Crusaders’ half and unleashing their deadly rolling maul, which caused havoc against Waratahs.
The Lions did manage to induce some uncharacteristic handling errors from the Crusaders when they last met in April, but the New Zealanders have toughened up considerably since then. Ruthless in attack and stubbornly disciplined in defence, it is hard to see them letting this slip, and they will have plans in place to nullify Marx’s threat. Still, this is a final, and tension, as well as the Lions’ likely tactics, may make this game scrappy and attritional for long periods, so it may be asking too much for the favourites to cover an 18 point handicap.
Back Lions + 18 at 10/11
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Super Rugby Betting Odds – Finals
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