Lions roar over the Canes
31 July, 2017, 12:00 am
THE Lions came back from a 19-point deficit at the end of the first-half to rout the Hurricanes 44-29 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg yesterday and advance to next weekend’s final against the Crusaders in the City of Gold.
This was an epic performance by Johan Ackermann’s team, who gained some revenge for last year’s Super Rugby final defeat to the Wellington side, as well as winning their first match against the Kiwis since 2007.
The Lions become the second South African team in Super Rugby history to appear in back-to-back finals after the Bulls did so in 2009 and 2010 and boy, they deserve it. Last year, the Lions — foolishly — rested their first team having already clinched a playoff berth. Ackermann decided to rest his regulars ahead of the quarter-finals, but they were beaten 34-22 by the Jaguares and ceded top spot in the standings to the Hurricanes. The loss, ultimately, cost the South Africans the title as they travelled to New Zealand and were comprehensively beaten.
The Joburg team finished top of the table, ensuring home playoffs throughout the knockout rounds, but having not played a team from “the land of the long white cloud”, few wondered if they had the substance to beat the tournament’s most exciting team. Elton Jantjies, who was so poor against the Sharks missed 10 points with the boot that day and had a nightmare.