Crusaders licking their lips for Lions
The Canterbury Crusaders started their long trek to South Africa in search of their eighth Super Rugby title with Kieran Read and Owen Franks on the plane despite limping off in the semifinal victory of the Waikato Chiefs.
All Blacks captain Read hurt his knee and limped off in the final few minutes of the 27-13 victory at Rugby League Park. He was replaced at half time after a long-standing Achilles injury flared up.
The Crusaders were required to wait until after the semifinal between the Lions and Wellington Hurricanes before they knew where they would be playing the final and headed to the airport soon after the South Africans won the game 44-29.
The seven-times champions demonstrated again on Saturday their ability to win games most other teams would probably lose.
Several of their 14 regular season wins were come-from-behind victories and on Saturday they had virtually no ball but still managed to score four tries.
It came on the back of a tremendous forward effort in atrocious conditions in the quarterfinal against the Otago Highlanders.
Centre Ryan Crotty felt it would put them in good stead for Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
"The boys are pretty proud, it was a massive effort," said Crotty.
"We have played two of the best teams in the comp in the past two weeks and they have not been easy games by any stretch of the imagination.
"Both times were pretty solid defensively, it kind of came down to moments and opportunities that we managed to take."
The Crusaders will need to take all the opportunities they get at Ellis Park, after the Lions overran the Hurricanes from 22-3 down.
"[The Lions] opened up pretty easily in the first 20 minutes; we created five or six clear, and fairly simplistic, opportunities and I think the Crusaders can do that as well," said Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd.
"It's not a bridge too far for them but it's going to be a big challenge and probably the number of forwards in their forward pack is potentially going to stand them in reasonable stead."