It’s the grand final many Super Rugby fans predicted at the start of the season and this Saturday’s final between the Lions and the Crusaders promises to live up to the hype. The Lions were stellar in 2017 – dropping only one of its 15 regular season games and scoring a strong semi-final win against the Hurricanes in comeback fashion.
The top South African side comes up against the top New Zealand side, which did drop a late season game to the Hurricanes, but they quickly rebounded with a 17-0 thrashing for the Brumbies and a one-sided 27-13 win over the Chiefs.
The beauty of the new Super Rugby format is that these two sides haven’t met this season, which should appeal to fans and bettors. The Crusaders (17/20) are edging out the home side on the betting front, which is fair given the Crusaders’ history in the Super Rugby competition.
The Crusaders have won seven Super Rugby championships, with the last coming in 2008, and the Lions have yet to hold the title after spending many years trying to rebuild their squad. That rebuild was evident last season when the Lions lost to the Hurricanes in the final, so many bettors are arguing that the Lions are the better side.
Lions assistant coach, Swys de Bruin, stated why the Crusaders are so tough to beat in the big games. “When you do the analysis on the Crusaders you realise why they have been such a strong team over the years. They’re just so much more clinical than the other teams,” de Bruin said.
There’s no doubting just how good the Crusaders are, but travelling to South Africa takes its toll and many of their top-flight players are coming off a grueling Lions vs. All Blacks series.
The Lions have had to make two comeback efforts to win both of their finals games this season, which can be both a positive and negative. On the positive – it shows good resolve and a belief that they can win from any position, but on the negative, the Crusaders don’t give up leads easily and giving them a big head start will result in a loss.
This is a tough game to call and had it been played in New Zealand we would have favored the Crusaders by 10 points, but there’s something about this Lions side this year that is different from the rest.
They went close last season and teams rarely lose two consecutive finals. We’re tipping the Lions to stage the minor upset at even money odds with bet365.com.