The following are previews with betting tips for the 2017 Super Rugby final between the Lions and Crusaders.
Sunday, 6 August
Lions v Crusaders
View a detailed form guide for Lions v Crusaders
For the second week running the Crusaders suffocated a potent offence with a defensive master class to see off the Chiefs comfortably in Christchurch. The 27-13 win continues the Crusaders’ streak of having never lost a home playoff fixture. Last week the Chiefs enjoyed almost 75% of territory and possession but couldn’t make inroads past the Crusaders’ brick wall. A similar effort this week would give the Crusaders a great chance of taking the title. My concern, however, is how fresh they will be after having made 185 tackles on a heavy ground last week. History will be firmly against the Crusaders. In Super Rugby history there have been 14 finals played between sides from different nations and only once has a team won the title on foreign soil (the Crusaders beat the Brumbies 20-19 in Canberra in 2000). Suffice to say no team has ever crossed the Indian Ocean and won a final.
The Lions bounced back from a 19-point deficit to overcome the Hurricanes 44-29 in Johannesburg last week. The game was turned with the 15 points the Lions scored while Beauden Barrett was in the bin. The victory was made all the more impressive by the fact that the Lions hadn’t previously faced a Kiwi, i.e. quality, side this season. The Hurricanes faded badly late in the game, which will give the Lions hope that they can wear out the Crusaders after they make the trip across the Indian Ocean. The only issue is I don’t see the Crusaders losing their composure like the Hurricanes did. The Lions put in a poor game against the Sharks and were fortunate to only be 3-22 down against the Hurricanes, but the fact that they responded with a 41-7 run against the most potent offence in the competition will have put the Crusaders on notice. To win the title, however the Lions must avoid another slow start.
Betting: finals history is firmly with the Lions, but if any side can become the first team to cross the Indian Ocean and win the title, it’s the Crusaders. Much of the Lions fightback last week was on the back of a superior forward pack, but they will be going up against a more formidable tight five this weekend. If this were being played in Christchurch I would be all over the Crusaders, but history shows how difficult it is to win overseas. Given the Lions are the hosts, I will back both the Lions 1-12 at 3.30 (Sportsbet) and the Crusaders 1-12 at 3.10 (Sportsbet). If I had to bet on the head-to-head market I would take the Lions at 2.10 (Ladbrokes). Given the Lions’ slow starts and strong finishes in recent weeks I also like the Crusaders/Lions selection in the HT/FT market at 7.50 (Unibet).