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South Africa’s Lions will belatedly fly to New Zealand today in a bid to beat jet lag and give themselves the best chance for Saturday’s Super Rugby final, even though they admit it will be tough to beat the Crusaders.
Coach Swys de Bruin is also trying to temper any hype around the team, who were beaten in the 2016 and 2017 finals, in a bid to keep the routine as normal as possible.
The late departure was a ploy they used in April when the squad travelled to Sydney, departing home just three days before the game and sticking to South African time to avoid changing sleeping patterns and eating arrangements.
They beat the New South Wales Waratahs using the method and want to repeat the exercise, even though Christchurch is two time zones ahead of Sydney and will prove more difficult, De Bruin said.
In the past South African teams have opted to depart as early as possible on trips across the Indian Ocean to either Australia or New Zealand to give themselves more time to acclimatise but battled with the effects of the long journeys.
But even under the most optimal of conditions, the Lions know they face a taxing task against the holders.
“It’s vital that we don’t make the occasion too big, that we don’t focus on individuals ... it must be about the team only, and we’re going to have to stick to what has worked for us,” added De Bruin.
“Our focus will be on us only. We’re still going to go out there and try and score as many tries as we can, and to inspire people with our style of rugby.
“I believe in miracles. This team has proven it and anything can happen. Of course the Crusaders are the favourites ... they don’t have too many weak spots. We’re going to have to try (and) find a crack in that armour.”
The Lions lost at home to the Crusaders in April during the regular season and in last year’s final at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
Their last trip to Christchurch was in 2015 when they were easily beaten 34-6.