Spoiler alert: Below is probably nothing that you haven’t heard already. But possibly not.
The Lions will definitely roar a bit more than many care to think in the Super Rugby final. Remember that they have lost the last two finals, and the loss at home in last year’s final to the Crusaders will still be a pretty fresh memory.
They will play like men possessed tonight; there is absolutely no worry on that score. But keeping the intensity up for the duration- that’s another story in a different book entirely. And up against a practically All Blacks pack. A climb on Mt Cook in heavy weather could almost be more inviting, and easier, than battling to a victory over the mainlanders in some possible Addington slush.
If the weather is quite inclement or more than a little wet, rip up your Lions’ betting slip and biff it in a 44-gallon drum. Because their first-five Elton Jantjies can’t play his way out of a paper bag as soon as a bit of rain or some showers appear. He was a bumbling wreck in the 2016 Final against the Hurricanes. The conditions weren’t good at all, but even so- he messed up almost everything important. Perhaps once in my life have I actually seen it rain from a televised match from Ellis Park. The Lions are bona-fide sun worshippers and dry ground greyhounds. It’s difficult to envisage them getting within fifteen points of the Crusaders if the conditions are, say, less than ideal. Although no rain is currently forecast.
What goes for Jantjies might also hold true for his team mates. Would love to be wrong if it does hose down (because a close game is almost always a good one), but one just can’t see it. Even so, it shouldn’t be a big ask for the Lions to be better than the Hurricanes were last week. That was an exercise in exactly how NOT to play the Crusaders. They quite literally stunk. A real shame they hardly looked up for the fight, especially in light of all the farewells.
The key man for the Lions is undoubtedly Warren Whitely, even above Malcolm Marx. His influence goes beyond his play and even his captaincy. The team never do as well when he is missing. They usually go about fifteen percent better when he’s in the side. He’s kind of the Reuben Thorne of his team.
The two most public predictions I’ve ever given on this site have been beyond rubbish. The first attempt resulted in a quite literally ‘dead’ last place finish for the horse I tipped out a few years ago in the Melbourne Cup (it had to be euthanased later). And recently I chose Germany to take out the FIFA World Cup (they didn’t get beyond the Group stage for the first time ever). A long-time friend told me I’m now the sporting tip guru anti-christ, or something like that. So I’ll refrain from making one on this game…!
All I’ll say is that it’s bound to be cold (or foggy- good grief) and with thick dew on the surface. That should suit the home team very nicely indeed. They should win by at least ten.
Just finally. Don’t take your eyes off this one. Don’t follow the lead of the sportsfreak and just have it going in the background (he’ll be busy with ironing his Canes jumper for next year anyway). The Lions may be a lot better than you think.