The Lions are well placed to continue their long winning run against the Waratahs at Ellis Park and qualify for a third successive final. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The South African Super Rugby teams have combined for 19 losses in 21 overseas matches this season. The most recent loss – the Sharks went down 40-10 to the Crusaders in Christchurch this past Saturday – saw South Africa’s collective run in playoff games staged in New Zealand stretching to 12 defeats.
There is a chance that the Lions will travel to Christchurch for the Super Rugby final. However, if the Hurricanes beat the Crusaders on Saturday and the Lions tame the Waratahs thereafter, then Swys de Bruin’s charges will avoid a dreaded visit to New Zealand’s South Island.
The odds are in the Lions’ favour this week, though. The Waratahs are coming all the way from Sydney for this semi-final. Like most touring sides, they will be hard-pressed to adjust to the altitude ahead of what should be a lively contest.
The Waratahs haven’t beaten the Lions at Ellis Park since 2009. Their record in South Africa over the past few years has left a lot to be desired when one considers that their last victory in the Republic came in April 2016 when they downed the Stormers at Newlands.
During that period, the Lions have been completely dominant against Australian teams at home. They romped to a 55-36 triumph the last time they hosted the Waratahs in 2017.
The Lions have averaged 47 points and seven tries in home matches against Aussie opposition over the past two years. The Waratahs will have their work cut out for them on defence at Ellis Park this Saturday, especially in the second half when one of the fittest teams in the tournament shifts up a gear.
South Africa’s Super Rugby teams combined for only two wins in Australasia this season. It’s significant to note that the Lions picked up one of those victories – a 29-0 hammering of the Waratahs in Sydney.
At the end of the conference stage, we typically talk about the enormous challenge facing under-performing South African teams as they jet off for knockout matches in Australia and New Zealand.
This week, however, the odds will be against the Australian side that is forced to traverse the Indian Ocean for a semi-final at Ellis Park.
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