The Emirates Lions and the Crusaders have announced unchanged teams for their 2017 Vodacom Super Rugby Final on Saturday in Johannesburg. Kick off at Emirates Airline Park is at 16h00 and the decider will be televised live on SuperSport 1.
Emirates Lions coach Johan Ackermann has announced the same match 23 for a third consecutive encounter following their sensational 44-29 comeback triumph over the Hurricanes at the same venue last weekend. Springbok flanker Jaco Kriel will again lead the Johannesburg side in the injury absence of regular skipper Warren Whiteley, who is battling with a groin problem.
They will run out against an unchanged Crusaders team which defeated the Chiefs 27-13 last weekend in Christchurch, thus keeping alive their quest for an unprecedented eighth title triumph.
The Highveld team is only the second South African side to play in two consecutive Finals and they follow in the footsteps of the Vodacom Bulls who first achieved the feat in 2009 and 2010. They fell to the Hurricanes in the 2016 Final in Wellington.
Last Saturday’s thrilling victory over the ‘Canes was also the 15th consecutive home win for the men in red, which extended their record for a sequel of consecutive wins.
The Emirates Lions will play the seven times champions in front of a record, capacity crowd of 62 000 home supporters and a Test-match like atmosphere is expected at their Johannesburg fortress.The statistics and record-breaking feats aside, the match will also be an emotional affair for the team, their loyal supporters and especially Ackermann. The Final is his farewell game after in charge of the Emirates Lions before he heads to Gloucester in England, with assistant coach Swys de Bruin set to take over the head coaching duties.
The dream final also sees the competition’s two top-ranked team going into battle against each other. The Emirates Lions finished in first place on the overall standings on 65 points, two more than the Crusaders in second. Both sides lost only one of their 15 regular fixtures, with the Joburg outfit crucially bagging two more bonus points and home ground advantage throughout the playoffs.
According to Kriel, his team has received an enormous amount of support and encouragement from all over South Africa since their sensational semi-final win.
“The amazing amount of messages we have received from all over the country since last Saturday is just incredible,” explained Kriel.
“We are very humbled and grateful for this support and were are also very determined to give our best performance against the most successful team in the history of the competition. It will be a very tough but exciting contest on Saturday.”
If the scores are tied after full-time, then the teams will play two extra halves of 10 minutes each with a break of five minutes in-between. The Final will be refereed by Jaco Peyper, who will be assisted by South African compatriot Marius van der Westhuizen and New Zealander Glen Jackson. Marius Jonker (SA) will perform the television match official duties.
Teams and match information:
Emirates Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Seta Tamanivalu, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody. Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 George Bridge.
Date: Saturday, 5 August 2017
SA Time: 16h00
Venue: Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson, Marius van der Westhuizen
Television match official: Marius Jonker