There will be a new name on the Vodacom Super Rugby trophy this year when the Emirates Lions meet the Hurricanes on Saturday morning in Wellington, New Zealand, with a 7.35 am (Irish time) kick-off.
This will be the first time the Emirates Lions have reached the final as they aim to become only the second South African franchise to win the title, following the success of the Vodacom Bulls in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, will be make a third final appearance after losing by seven point to the Crusaders in 2006, and by the same margin against the Highlanders in 2015.
Both sides are in superb form at the moment, with the Johannesburg side returning to New Zealand on the back of a record eight-match home winning streak following their semi-final victory last weekend over defending champions, the Highlanders.
The Wellington-based Hurricanes have won seven consecutive matches on their way to a home final, including last Saturday’s semi-final win over the Chiefs at the Westpac Stadium. They have been successful in nine of their 10 encounters with the Emirates Lions in Super Rugby, including each of their last seven. In those last seven wins they have beaten the South African side by an average of 15.3 points per game. Not only will the Hurricanes be searching for Final glory, but also an eighth consecutive win, which would set a franchise record.
The Lions have an excellent record of late against New Zealand teams: they have won their last three games against Kiwi opposition, scoring in excess of 40 points on each occasion.
Saturday’s final pitches the best attack against the best defence, with the Emirates Lions having averaged a competition high 36.4 points and 4.8 tries per game, whilst the Hurricanes have conceded the least average score per game, only 19 points per match to date.
The top two fly-halves from the 2016 Super Rugby season will face each other in Wellington. Beauden Barrett (71) and Elton Jantjies (70) have kicked more goals than any other players in the competition, though the Emirates Lions’ shot-taker (74%) has been more accurate than his New Zealand counterpart (70%).
Emirates Lions’ Elton Jantjies was in sensational form last week in the semi-final win, and as a result won the Man of the Match award. He has scored 187 points so far this season in 15 matches, including three tries. His opposite number, Beauden Barrett, is the talisman for the Hurricanes and he was in splendid form last weekend against the Chiefs. He has accumulated 208 points in his 17 matches this Super Rugby season, including eight tries.
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Jason Woodward, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles (captain)/Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Loni Uhila. Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli/Leni Apisai, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Mike Kainga/Reggie Goodes, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins/Tony Lambourn, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Vince Aso, 23 Julian Savea.
Emirates Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5, Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylon Smith. Replacements: 16 Armand ‘Akker’ van der Merwe, 17 Corner Fourie, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Ruan Ackermann, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Jaco van der Walt.