JOHANNESBURG – Swys de Bruin’s belief that miracles do happen means he is backing his team to pull off an upset win against the Crusaders in Christchurch this weekend in the Super Rugby final.
The Lions qualified for their third final in a row by beating the Waratahs 44-26 at Ellis Park on Saturday, to set up a date with the eight-time champions, the Crusaders, in a repeat of last year’s final. This time though the match will be played in Christchurch - a place few teams have gone to and won in the past.
Scott Robertson’s men have also been the form team this season and showed in their semi-final win against the Hurricanes that they have few weaknesses and won’t easily be stopped on their home turf.
De Bruin, though, while admitting the Crusaders are a formidable outfit, said his team had nothing to lose and everything to gain in the final.
“I believe in miracles,” he said after the win against the Waratahs. “This team has proven it ... and anything can happen.
“Of course the Crusaders are the favourites; they’re a very good team. But it is 80 minutes between four white lines ... it will be interesting. I am pleased and thankful we have a chance go to the best team in the world (to try to win this competition).
“The Crusaders are unreal ... they don’t have too many weak spots; we’re going to have to go try find a crack in that armour.”
De Bruin said the Lions could only focus on their own game in the build-up to the final.
“Our focus will be on us only. We’re still going to go out there and try and score as many tries as we can, and to inspire people with our style of rugby,” he said. “It’s vital that we don’t make the occasion too big, that we don’t focus on individuals ... it must be about the team only, and we’re going to have to stick to what has worked for us.”
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said the Lions had a decent chance, even though the Crusaders would be the favourites to win their ninth Super Rugby title.
“The Lions are well-suited to play against the Crusaders ... they’ve got an excellent forward pack, good set-piece, their mauling is good ... and they will be equal to the Crusaders. The real challenge for the Lions will be dealing with the all-field game of the Crusaders ... they’re so good with ball in hand and getting it to the edges; it’s going to be a brilliant encounter.
“The Lions have also shown, against us, that they are a possession team; if you give it away, you’re not likely to get it back, so you (the Crusaders) must be careful of the style you play (against them).”
Waratahs captain Bernard Foley also said De Bruin and his men “definitely had a chance”.
“It’s a two-horse race, so definitely they’ve got a chance,” said the No 10.
“The Lions are a quality side; they deserved to win tonight (against us). They’re a team that converts their pressure into points, they play a great brand of rugby, and they have an aggressive mindset.”
After being 14-0 down inside 10 minutes in their semi-final, the Lions hit back with six tries and a dominant forwards display to comfortably get past the 2014 champions. De Bruin could not say enough about the character of his players.
“The Waratahs were so good in those first 12 minutes; we never saw the ball. They came at us with some wonderful rugby, and we really had to dig deep.
“I always challenge the guys for effort; I don’t care if they make mistakes, but I want effort. After that start they upped it, and congrats to the decision-makers for doing that and speeding up the game. Coming back to win like we did is massive for the belief going into the final. It speaks about the character of this team.”