Kriel: Final won't define these Lions

Thu, 03 Aug 2017 23:03

SUPER RUGBY SPOTLIGHT: It is not about the destination, but rather the journey. And for the Lions the last four years have been an extraordinary passage.

From no-hopers to sitting on top of the competition standings and hosting a Final.

Four years after having been kicked out of Super Rugby the Lions have an opportunity to write their own chapter in the game's history.

They can win a second Super Rugby title 24 years after they became the first South African team to do so.

In between their Super 10 victory in 1993 and Saturday's Final, when they host the Crusaders at Ellis Park, the Bulls won three titles.

Apart from that famous moment in 1993 (a 20-17 victory over an All Black-laden Auckland), the Lions (or Transvaal) only appeared in two other Super Rugby finals.

They lost 16-30 to Queensland at Ellis Park in 1995 and 3-20 to the Hurricanes in Wellington last year.

That is why Lions captain Jaco Kriel believes whether they win or lose on Saturday, it won't define them as players or as a team.

The Lions have spoken repeatedly in recent weeks of the special bond which the players and coaching staff share on and off the field.

That has been the glue in the team and a major strength which has helped them regroup and fight back from half-time deficits during the quarterfinal and semifinal matches against the Sharks and the Hurricanes.

"If you look at the journey we've been through the last few of years, you can't define a side by just one game,"Kriel told a pre-Final media briefing at Ellis Park.

"I believe you have to look at the last four years, the team building, the guys caring for each other, building a brotherhood.

"That love for each other is unbelievable. We prayed together this [Thursday] morning and it was just amazing how everybody cared for each other - no matter who's going away or whose staying.

"We still care for them, we still love them and they will always be part of this brotherhood,” Kriel added.

The Lions' class of 2017 will appear in their first-ever home Final on Saturday and coach Johan Ackermann wants the players to put in a committed effort, while enjoying the atmosphere which comes with playing a such a big game on home soil.

"I said to them to embrace the moment," he said, adding: "They must enjoy the moment instead of trying to close shut themselves out."

Ackermann added that the Lions will not only be required to deal with a physical battle on Saturday, but a mental battle as well.

"It means for 80 minutes you have to be switched on and if it needs to take longer, they must stay switched on for more than 80 minutes to get over the winning line."

By Josh Isaacson, at Ellis Park

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