JOHANNESBURG - The majority of the Lions players know what they’re up against when they run out at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday for the Super Rugby final against the mighty Crusaders. Lock Marvin Orie is not one of them.
The tall second row forward, who is in the midst of a stellar season, will experience Christchurch’s cold, wet weather and the intimidating atmosphere of the Crusaders’ home ground for the first time.
“It’ll be my first time playing there,” said the 25-year-old earlier this week before the Lions flew out of South Africa for Saturday’s final - their third straight appearance in the last match of the competition. “The coach (Swys de Bruin) has given us all a good description of what to expect... my job is to get the work done. I’m super excited about playing in the final.”
Saturday’s match (9.35am SA time kick-off) will also be Orie’s first major final after not featuring for the Lions in last season’s final at Ellis Park against the Crusaders, after joining earlier in the year. It has been some last 18 months for Orie.
He joined the Lions from the Bulls but couldn’t crack the starting team on a regular basis, but this season with more game-time behind him, he not only became a Springbok (debuting against Wales in June), he’s also become a key man in the Lions' pack playing alongside Franco Mostert.
It’s been quite a journey for the former Tuks player who suffered a horrific broken leg in helping his team win a second Varsity Cup title in 2013 that ruled him out of captaining the Junior Springboks at the World Cup that same year.
“That injury really set me back... but I always believed I could be here, go far with my rugby,” he said this week. “Moving to the Lions last year was the best thing that I could have done. It’s great to be part of this team and to be playing in this final this weekend.”
Not knowing what to expect on Saturday has given Orie plenty of belief that he and his teammates can pull off a surprise win and lift the trophy for the first time. “I have absolutely no doubt that we can do this," he said.
"The Crusaders are a very good team, they’ve won Super Rugby titles before; they’re a fantastic team but we’re not intimidated by them and we all believe we can do this. The key for us is to focus on ourselves and to execute the plan the coach has come up with. It would be so special if we were to go there and win the title; that would be fantastic. But let me not get ahead of myself.”
CROSS-KICK | Who did it better, Richie Mo'unga or Elton Jantjies? Don't miss the battle of the 🔟 jersey in the #SuperRugby final. ⚔️🦁
⏰ 7.35pm, Saturday 4 August
🏟️ AMI Stadium, Christchurch
🏉 #CRUvLIO pic.twitter.com/GgUusb7yEI
There is a feeling among Lions fans that De Bruin’s team are hitting top form and peaking at just the right time, having comfortably got past the Jaguares and Waratahs in the quarter- and semi-finals respectively. But Orie looked at his team’s quality performances of the last few weeks in a different light.
“I don’t know if 'peak' is the right word. We still have quite a few challenges, like the way we’ve been starting our matches,” he said, referring to the slow starts and going behind early on in matches. “It’s something we must address before kick-off this weekend.
“But the big positive for our team is all the guys who’ve come back into the side since the international break, like Warren (Whiteley), Malcolm (Marx), Courtnall (Skosan)... and Elton (Jantjies) is playing very well too. Also, Aphiwe Dyantyi has come back after being out at one stage. So getting these players back and the composure they bring to the team, that’s the big positive.”
Orie and his teammates will certainly be hoping it is first time lucky for him because that will mean it is third time lucky for the Lions.