Lions star Elton Jantjies says the lessons‚ if not the pain‚ of two previous finals are the best preparation a team could hope for going into a third successive Super Rugby climax.
The Lions flyhalf will line up with his teammates for his third straight final following defeat to the Hurricanes in 2016 and the Crusaders in 2017.
"I don’t feel pressure because we are prepared. We’ve been to two finals in a row‚ now a third.
"You can’t ask for much better preparation for Super Rugby finals‚" said Jantjies.
He did not want to dwell on what had been, but relented. "It hurts‚ if you’re playing 20 weeks of rugby and you get into the play-offs and a final and not winning it," he said about losing 2017’s match against the Crusaders at Ellis Park. "Again‚ you are taking experience‚ learning from those mistakes.
"We went through a roller coaster this year with lots of on and off the field stuff‚" he said.
It will be imperative for the Lions to learn from their misadventures in previous finals when they square up against the redoubtable Crusaders on Saturday. The Crusaders have played 20 play-off matches at home in Super Rugby and have won them all.
"I don’t have a fear of them‚" insisted Jantjies. "The biggest thing for this group is guys have been learning in every match. We have been together for three‚ four‚ five years. I always refer to the historical win that we got against the Chiefs [away from home in 2016]. That comes up in my mind every time."
Jantjies said the unity and the systems in the Lions group would help them rise above their opponents.
"The things we’ve gone through as a group you can’t describe. We don’t want to put pressure on ourselves. Everything is relaxed. We just have to travel. It’s about getting the bodies fresh‚" said the flyhalf.
Jantjies was loath to be drawn into assessing his prospects against opposing flyhalf Richie Mo’unga.
In fact‚ he almost made it sound as if one set of robots would be trying to outmanoeuvre another on Saturday.
"We don’t focus on individuals‚" he said. "It is the Crusaders against the Lions. It’s one system against another."
He then conceded: "He is a quality player and loves space. He’s got quality players around him. It is going to be a quality game‚ of that I can assure you of. It will be exciting as well because it is two teams that love scoring tries."
Rain has been forecast for Christchurch this weekend, which should make the match more of an arm wrestle for the forwards. "Obviously we’ll have to change our game plan‚" he said. "We are facing an All Blacks pack‚ and that will be challenging for the guys up front.
"Our forwards have been producing quality performances."