Whiteley added to Lions' Final squad

Sun, 31 Jul 2016 11:37
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NEWS: Injured captain Warren Whiteley and back Sylvian Mahuza have been added to the Lions' squad for the Super Rugby Final.

The second-ranked Lions on Sunday depart on a gruelling 11,800-kilometre 15-hour flight to New Zealand - where they will face the Hurricanes in the Final in Wellington next Saturday, August 6.

Coach Johan Ackermann added Whiteley, who was touch and go for the semifinal, and Mahuza to the 23-man squad that recorded a commanding 42-30 win over the Highlanders at the weekend.

The Lions were without the services of regular captain Whiteley (calf), but replacement scrumhalf Ross Cronje made a late recovery from an ankle injury and came on late in second half.

Whiteley, who played in his first game back after recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in the Test series against Ireland in June, damaged his calf muscle in the 42-25 quarterfinal win over seven-time champion Crusaders the previous week.

The Lions' win over the 2015 champion Highlanders will ensure a new champion is crowned.

The Hurricanes, beaten finalists last year, have never won a Super Rugby title.

The Lions, then still playing as Transvaal, won the Super 10 title in 1993 - when they beat an All Black-laden Auckland team in the Final.

The last time the Lions (or Transvaal) reached the Final was in 1995 - when Queensland (no the Reds) beat them in a Super 10 Final.

The Lions now face the daunting trip across the Indian Ocean.

Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies scored 22 points as the Johannesburg-based Lions knocked out New Zealand's Highlanders at the weekend.

The scoreline flattered the visitors, who trailed 16-42 five minutes from time - before wing Waisake Naholo and replacement lock Joe Wheeler scored.

The top-ranked Hurricanes clinched the home final with a 25-9 victory over two-time winners Chiefs in the other semifinal.

History is against the rejuvenated Lions claiming their second Super Rugby crown, with no South African team ever winning a Final in Australasia.

South Africa's Durban-based Sharks lost to the Blues in Auckland in the first Final of the professional era in 1996, to the Brumbies in 2001 and the Chiefs four years ago.

The Hurricanes beat the Lions 50-17 in Johannesburg in Week 10 this season, while the South Africans split their games in New Zealand this year against the Chiefs and Highlanders - taking revenge with their commanding win at Ellis Park at the weekend.

Reaching the decider continues a fairytale rise for the team, who were relegated in 2013 and narrowly avoided bankruptcy before returning to the big time two years ago.

The Lions have been transformed from also-rans to title contenders within three seasons under coach and former Springbok lock Johan Ackermann.

Lions squad: Dylan Smith, Malcolm Marx, Julian Redelinghuys, Andries Ferreira, Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel, Warwick Tecklenburg, Ruan Ackermann, Francois de Klerk, Elton Jantjies, Courtnall Skosan, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Lionel Mapoe, Ruan Combrinck, Andries Coetzee, Armand van der Merwe, Corné Fourie, Jacques van Rooyen, Lourens Erasmus, Steph de Witt, Dillon Smit, Howard Mnisi, Jaco van der Walt, Warren Whiteley, Sylvian Mahuza.

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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 15 10 0 5 43
Waratahs 15 8 0 7 40
Rebels 15 7 0 8 31
Reds 15 3 1 11 17
Force 15 2 0 13 13
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Hurricanes 15 11 0 4 53
Highlanders 15 11 0 4 52
Chiefs 15 11 0 4 51
Crusaders 15 11 0 4 50
Blues 15 8 1 6 39
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Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 15 10 1 4 51
Bulls 15 9 1 5 42
Cheetahs 15 4 0 11 21
Sunwolves 15 1 1 13 9
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Team P W D L Pts
Lions 14 11 0 3 52
Sharks 15 9 1 5 43
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Kings 15 2 0 13 9