The Lions will require a significant defensive improvement if they are to overcome the Crusaders in the Super Rugby final, according to Bryan Habana.
After finishing as runners-up for the past two seasons, the Lions have a chance to avenge their home defeat to the Crusaders in last year’s showpiece when they take on the reigning champions in Christchurch on Saturday.
Swys de Bruin’s team had to come from 14-0 down to defeat the Waratahs in the semi-finals last weekend, and Habana, a two-time Super Rugby champion, says they must match the quality they have in possession when without the ball.
“I think their defence is something they’re going to have to improve on. I think they were pretty loose in that first 20 minutes against the Waratahs and had to come from behind to win that,” Habana told Omnisport, speaking courtesy of Coco Fuzion 100.
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“I think ball in hand they’ve got some fantastic players and Elton Jantjies at Super Rugby level has really been one of the stand-out first-fives in Super Rugby over the last while.
“On the wing they’ve got the likes of Aphiwe Dyantyi that’s been an absolute sensation this year, the try he scored against the Waratahs last weekend was out the top drawer – that little gather from behind, chip and then outpacing Bernard Foley was one of the best that Ellis Park’s seen in a while.
“[The Lions have] some fantastic ball players – Kwagga Smith scored two fantastic tries last week, so ball in hand the Lions are really, really good.
“Against that Crusaders side their defence will have to be up there, their kicking game will have to be spot-on because the Crusaders backline can make you pay from anywhere on the park.
“They’ve got a very mobile unit all around and I think the Lions will, besides having it up against them, definitely know they’re going to need to have an all-round game to be able to beat them.”
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Scott Robertson’s side head into the final on a 14-match winning streak and have beaten the Lions on each of their four previous visits to Christchurch, factors Habana knows makes them firm favourites.
“My heart tells me go with the Lions but my head’s telling me that the Crusaders have just been too good, and there’s not been too many South African teams that have actually gone to Christchurch and won a game there,” he said.
“The Lions will have a lot to overcome to try to win that, travelling to New Zealand, the time difference and to try to beat probably the most on-form side in the competition at the moment at their home venue is going to be rather challenging.
“They’re in a final and anything can happen in a final so I’ll definitely be supporting them from a South African point of view and I just hope they do really well in the final.”
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