Lions coach Swys de Bruin is in no doubt about what his team needs to do to break with history in Saturday’s Super Rugby final against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
"We have to bring our A-game and more. We have huge respect for them‚" said De Bruin about the eight-time champions who are this weekend defending the title they won at Ellis Park in 2017.
The Crusaders are on a 14-match unbeaten run and have won all 20 play-off matches ever played in Christchurch.
While the Crusaders have history firmly in their favour‚ the Lions have not much to go on.
They lost all four of their matches against New Zealand opposition this season.
In 2017 they beat the Hurricanes and lost the final to the Crusaders‚ but they chalked up three wins against New Zealand teams en route to the 2016 final.
"We have huge respect for the Crusaders‚" captain Warren Whiteley echoed. He, however‚ seemed to be in full embrace of the challenge facing his team.
"What an opportunity for us. In New Zealand‚ in Christ-church. What more do you want? This is why you play the game‚" he said.
When he announced his team for the final, De Bruin was asked about the comments of Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd‚ who had installed the Crusaders as favourites after his team lost in the semifinals in Christchurch last weekend.
"He’s not far off‚" said De Bruin. "However‚ everyone can be beaten."
Whiteley, who missed the two previous finals the Lions featured in, said he was honoured to get an opportunity to play in the tournament’s climax. He will also get the opportunity to measure himself against All Blacks captain Kieran Read.
"He’s the world’s best No8‚ he’s a great leader‚" said Whiteley. "He’s consistent. He’s allround phenomenal. He’s a player I’ve always looked up to."
De Bruin confirmed that Johan Ackermann‚ under whose tutelage the team reached the previous two finals‚ had sent the team a message wishing them good luck in the final.
Aphiwe Dyantyi will have to save his potentially explosive impact for the second half after he was named on the bench.
The Lions have made two changes from the one that beat the Waratahs in the semifinals.
Having sat out the second half last week with a hamstring injury‚ Dyantyi will this week make room for Courtnall Skosan in the starting line-up.
Cyle Brink returns to flank in the place of Lourens Erasmus, who drops to the bench.