Commentary Box: Lions claim unusual hat-trick

South African rugby supporters were optimistic on Saturday when the Lions made their third Super Rugby finals appearance in a row. Unfortunately, the Lions succumbed to a 37–18 loss against the Crusaders in Christchurch and became the runners-up for the third year running.
It is the first time that this has happened in the history of the competition, which dates back to 1996 when the then Super 12 tournament kicked off.
The Lions have now lost three consecutive finals, first in 2016 with a 20–3 loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington, then an agonizing 25–17 loss to the Crusaders in Johannesburg on home turf.
The pattern continued on Saturday when they suffered defeat by a charged Crusaders side.
The Lions should be commended for their effort throughout the season as they stood head and shoulders above all the other South African sides in Super Rugby. Swys de Bruin’s charges had their moments of magic during the season and players such as hooker Malcolm Marx, flyhalf Elton Jantjies, wing Aphiwe Dyantyi and others put their hands up when needed most, yet it seems they can’t shake the NZ hoodoo come finals.
The Lions are also the runners-up in the spot for most second place finishes in Super Rugby. The Sharks currently hold the SA record for most finals appearances, with four.
The Crusaders hold the record for most runner-up places for a New Zealand team with four.
After three finals appearances in a row, it is safe to say that the Lions continue to be the flag-bearer of SA rugby in this compe- tition and rugby fans would be hard-pressed not to hope for an eventual Lions champion-ship triumph come 2019.

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Wouter Pienaar
Sport Journalist

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