'We have to bring our A-game against the Crusaders‚' says Lions coach De Bruin
Lions coach Swys de Bruin was in no doubt about what his team needs to do to break with history in Saturday’s Super Rugby final against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
“We have to bring our A-game and more. We have huge respect for them‚” said De Bruin about the eight-time champions who are this weekend defending the title they won at Ellis Park last year.
The Crusaders are on a 14-match unbeaten run and have won all 20 play-off matches ever played in Christchurch.
While the Crusaders have history pointing firmly in their favour‚ the Lions have not much to go on.
They lost all four their matches against New Zealand opposition this season.
Last year they beat the Hurricanes and lost the final to the Crusaders‚ but they chalked up three wins against New Zealand opposition en route to the final in 2016.
“We have huge respect for the Crusaders‚” captain Warren Whiteley soon echoed.
Whiteley‚ however‚ seemed to be in full embrace of the challenge facing his team.
“What an opportunity for us. In New Zealand‚ in Christchurch. What more do you want? This is why you play the game‚” said the Lions captain.
When he announced his team for the final De Bruin was asked about the comments of Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd‚ who had installed the Crusaders as favourites after his team lost in the semi-finals in Christchurch last weekend.
“He’s not far off‚” said De Bruin.
“However‚ everyone can be beaten. The fact that they are favourites is no lie.”
Whiteley who missed to two previous finals the Lions had featured in said he was honoured to now get an opportunity to play in the tournament’s climax.
He’ll also get the opportunity to measure himself against All Blacks’ captain Kieran Read who for long has been the globe’s standard bearer in that position.
“He’s the world’s best No8‚ he’s a great leader‚” said Whiteley.
“He’s consistent. He’s all round phenomenal. He’s a player I’ve always looked up to him. He’s come back from huge injury. He’s a guy I respect.”
De Bruin confirmed that Johan Ackermann‚ under whose tutelage the team reached the previous two finals‚ had sent the team a message wishing them well and good luck in the final.
The Lions may need all the luck they can get.