The Lions have the ability to go all the way and win this year’s Super Rugby competition although they might have to travel to Wellington to face the Hurricanes in a potential final.
That was the view of Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder after his side suffered a 42-25 defeat against the Johannesburg-based outfit in their quarter-final at Ellis Park on Saturday.
“I think they [the Lions] have been playing good rugby all year, we knew when we played them earlier in the season that we would have our hands full today and they’ve improved really well,” said Blackadder after the match.
“They put us under pressure and took their opportunities so they showed what a good quality side they are.
“I’m really sad for the boys today, I mean it’s been a really enjoyable year, a great year and when you bow out of the competition it’s always sad.
“I’m really proud of the lads and even though things didn’t go our way, we didn’t stop trying and you can’t ask for more than that.”
The Hurricanes face the Chiefs in the first semi-final in Wellington on Saturday and Lions host the Highlanders in the second play-off in Johannesburg later that day.
Blackadder, whose seven-year reign as Crusaders coach ended with their loss to the Lions, identified his team’s poor start – when they were trailing 15-0 after 15 minutes – and Malcolm Marx’s try, shortly before half-time, as key moments in their defeat.
“We put ourselves under a bit of pressure and to win finals you cannot give away 15 points in the first 10 minutes,” he added.
“You are always on the back foot and we had to work really hard to get ourselves back into the game. When we did, we probably forced it a little bit too much and it just shows the attitude and the commitment but we didn’t die wandering – we had a go.
“It [the try just before the break] didn’t help and the other thing that didn’t help either was the first up missed tackles and the penalty count. I think the penalty count in the last four minutes was nine to two, so we just put ourselves under a bit of pressure there.”