PRETORIA - History may be against them and ahead of them a Lions team that is yet to lose a Super Rugby play-off match at home. However, the Crusaders will go into Saturday's Super Rugby final determined to create their own bit of history by becoming the first side to cross the Indian Ocean and win the title.
“This team is different and it is our chance to make history. We’ve done that, the Crusaders have paved the way over the years in Super Rugby. We’ve created it and everyone is trying to catch,” said Crusaders coach Scott Robertson after naming an unchanged team.
"No-one has crossed the ocean and performed here on the final, so it is a great challenge to be the first. We won our first three Super Rugby finals away and now we have another opportunity in front of us to create our own history again. This group is a special group."
While the Crusaders will be driven by a collective effort to succeed and add an eighth title to their collection, after winning their last in 2009, Robertson also stands on the verge of making history by becoming the first man to win Super Rugby as both player and coach after having played a prominent role during the Crusaders golden years.
“It would be really emotional. We’ve received so many messages of support from the old crew and the recent crew have been behind us and they know how special this group is. So to do it as a coach and a player would be something amazing,” Robertson said.
But the final won’t be won on sentiment or emotion but rather what the Crusaders deliver between the four white lines.
Much of what will unfold from the New Zealanders will be lessons they would have picked up from the Hurricanes’ semi-final defeat to the Lions last weekend.
Discipline will certainly be key, with the Crusaders fearing the kicking abilities of the Lions in Elton Jantjies and Ruan Combrinck. More importantly though, the Crusaders would have learnt that out-muscling and out-running the Lions won’t be enough to prevent them becoming only the second South African side to win Super Rugby.
The Crusaders will have to outsmart the Lions if they are to have any chance of making their own Super Rugby history, according to Robertson.
“We’ve taken a lot. We know they can punt the ball a mile. And tactically, around our kicking ability, we have some big and long kickers in our team.
“We must make sure we understand our strengths and what the Hurricanes did. Obviously it was a game of two halves and tactically the Lions changed when they needed to.
“So the lessons for us from that game were critical. We know that we have to be really smart,” he explained.