With a victory in Buenos Aires and a close defeat in Johannesburg, the Jaguares were the only team to seriously challenge the Lions this season, and that could be good news for the Crusaders and their supporters.

If anything, the Crusaders are a super-sized version of the Jaguares, who base their game on a strong, physical pack, a direct midfield and pace on the flanks.

Scott Robertson's men have that and more, with 10 All Blacks in their forwards and one of the best set pieces in the competition. They also possess far greater discipline, game sense, and an ability to play a wide game or engage in the arm wrestles that provided their success in their quarter-final win over the Highlanders and semifinal victory over the Chiefs.

A key for Robertson's side will be controlling the pace of the game at Ellis Park, which is 1724m above sea level, on Sunday morning NZT.


The Hurricanes enjoyed a high-octane start against the Lions but looked gassed after the first quarter, with Brad Shields, who was in everything early on, looking particularly tired. He was replaced after 63 minutes.

The Hurricanes' one standout in terms of fitness was flanker Ardie Savea, who put in an incredibly dynamic 80-minute performance which he concluded with a massive front-on hit against Lions first-five Elton Jantjies.

The Lions showed their potential up front when stealing two Hurricanes' lineouts in promising positions for the visitors and reverted to a tighter, mauling, style in the second half.

It provided huge dividends and allowed them to overcome a 10-22 deficit to win 44-29, but it's difficult to see them being able to push the Crusaders around so easily.

The big unknown is how the travel across the Indian Ocean will affect the Crusaders this time. It did for them last year in the quarter-final against the Lions in Johannesburg, but Sanzaar's bizarre flight plans did the Christchurch-based franchise a disservice then.

In July last year the Crusaders couldn't fly until the Tuesday before the sudden-death match, a schedule that meant they only had a couple of days on the ground before the game in which they were well beaten 42-25.

The Lions had to make the arduous journey from Johannesburg to Buenos Aires, which includes various connections, before their 36-24 defeat by the Jaguares in round three in March, a match in which they had two players sent to the sinbin by referee Nick Briant and scored 12 points in the final seven minutes.

The travel factor undoubtedly disadvantaged them, but in the return match at Ellis Park in round nine in April, the Jaguares again had them in trouble - the home side needing a penalty from Jantjies with three minutes remaining to win it.


The Crusaders' discipline has been excellent in their past two matches. They conceded seven penalties against the Chiefs and only six the week before against the Highlanders.

A similar rate against the Lions, aligned with a similar defensive effort, will be crucial should they become the first team since the Crusaders of 2000 (v Brumbies in Canberra) to win a title overseas.