After 126 matches, we are left with just two teams; the same two teams that contested last year’s final. The Crusaders have been the best side in the competition for the last two years, and the Lions have been the best non-Kiwi side, and with the way the tournament is set up, both sides deserve to be there.
Last year’s final took place in Johannesburg, where Kwagga Smith was sent off in the first half and the Lions left themselves too much to do to come back into it in the second half as the effects of travel and altitude kicked in.
This time, they’ll have no such advantage and there can only be one winner. It’s a shame that the showpiece event of what used to be the best club rugby tournament in the world ends up like this, with a stadium that isn’t full to see a match that is not expected to be very competitive. The bookies are giving the Crusaders a 17-point handicap, which seems ridiculous for a final.
Looking at the two teams, there are a few Lions forwards that you might pick over their Kiwi counterparts, although it’s close: Malcolm Marx, Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith.
The Crusaders pack has been outstanding all season, but the Lions are strong up front too, and perhaps they are one of the few teams that can take the Crusaders on in the forwards. But they’d need a monumental effort just to gain parity, and the quality and experience of the home side will tell in the end.
Then in the backs, I’d take all of the Crusaders every time. I’m struggling to see how the Lions can possibly win this match, even as a man that likes backing an underdog against the odds.
Crusaders by 21