Crusaders confront history at Ellis Park

Aug 4, 2017 - 6:00 PM They're the unquestioned kings of Super Rugby but even the Crusaders have been unable to conquer the greatest enemy of them all - long distance travel in the finals.

Not only would the Crusaders secure an eighth title if successful against the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday, they would also make competition history.

No team has crossed the Indian Ocean during the finals and gone on to claim the silverware.

The Crusaders won their first three titles on the road but none of them were in South Africa.

Christchurch was then the venue for four final triumphs, the last in 2008 marking the end of a glorious period under Robbie Deans.

Eight fruitless years under Todd Blackadder followed in which the Crusaders were finals regulars but nothing more.

Losses on Australian soil in the 2011 decider (Reds) and 2014 (Waratahs) has created a natural motivation for the core of players who have become used to success at Test level, according to assistant coach Brad Mooar.

"Every season on day one, the Crusaders say their goal is to win the title," he said.

"I'd say that frustration and disappointment were there at the time of losing previous finals and ultimately it becomes a motivation.

"Nothing will be spared but we're going to have to be outstanding."

Mooar worked under both Blackadder and this year's successor Scott Robertson, who has made a brilliant transition after coaching Canterbury to multiple NPC titles.

While he finds it hard to differentiate between the two former All Blacks loose forwards, Mooar says the Crusaders have clearly thrived under Robertson's more direct approach.

A 16-win, one-loss record reflects it.

"Toddy was an outstanding, calming influence of a 'she'll be right mate' style," Mooar said.

"Scott's full of energy, he knows the game, he's very clear on how he wants it to be played.

"It's an enjoyable team to be part of. We can have a laugh but it's well understood that you do the work."

Two wins in the wet of Christchurch stand in contrast to this week's challenge, against opponents who thrive at Ellis Park.

The Lions' late surge to beat the Hurricanes in last week's semi-final was no fluke, Mooar says.

He estimates the South African side's for-and-against record in the last quarter of matches this season is about plus-150.

Staying strong for 80 minutes will be a tactical challenge as much as a physical one.

"The ability to save the legs is really determined by how well we control the game," Mooar said.

"If we can get our game management right, then we'll be running to where we want to be running, rather than chasing them around.

"I'm sure the Lions will have their moments. We'll have to absorb that and then how we rebound is going to be critical."

Source: AAP

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