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View from Down Under: Lions Looking for History Against Crusaders in Super Rugby Final

Australia’s hopes of a Super Rugby title may be over, but rugby fans will be closely watching the best of the Southern Hemisphere line up in the tournament’s final Saturday night.

South Africa’s Lions rallied for an inspiring 44-29 comeback victory over the Wellington Hurricanes in Johannesburg last weekend to book their spot in the final. The Lions will host the Crusaders after the New Zealand side won a grueling local semifinal over the Chiefs.

Australia’s campaign ended abruptly almost two weeks ago when the ACT Brumbies lost a bruising encounter 35-16 to the Hurricanes. No team has won more Super Rugby titles than the Crusaders with seven, but the once great side has gone nine years without a title.

Playing in front of a home crowd at the storied Ellis park will be a major boost for the Lions, who are chasing their first ever Super Rugby trophy. The Lions will also be looking for revenge for last year’s final, which they lost 20-7 to the Hurricanes in Wellington.

William Hill is tipping the Crusaders to win a close match at $1.87 (-115) for a win and $1.95 (-105) for a loss, with the line even at $1.90 (-111).

The margin bets offer a more tempting price, with the Lions paying $3.10 (+210) for a winning margin of 1-12 points and $4.90 for more than 13. The Hurricanes are at $2.90 (-190) and $4.70 (+370) respectively. The Super Rugby final will kick off at midnight AEST.

The AFL final eight is far from decided as the competition enters round 20, with plenty of teams still threatening the top four.

The Tigers appear to have found their form, taking fourth spot in the ladder with a win at Gold Coast, but Richmond’s credentials will be tested by their clash with reigning premiers the Hawthorn Hawks on Sunday.

The league-leading Adelaide Crows will face one of their toughest tests ahead of the finals Sunday when they host hometown rivals Port Adelaide.

The Crows are $1.55 (-182) favorites to win the local derby with $2.45 (145) on offer for a loss, while Richmond is paying $1.72 (-139) for a win against $2.10 (+110) for a loss. It’s a tough call writing off Port Adelaide after they snatched a two-point win over St. Kilda last week with just seven seconds left, and especially given their fierce rivalry with the Crows.

With the NRL finals also fast approaching, the Melbourne Storm will put their premiership lead on the line when they travel to Townsville to face the North Queensland Cowboys. The Storm are paying $1.56 to extend their league lead, while the Johnathan Thurston-less Cowboys are on $2.45.

The Cowboys will be determined to force an upset after coming off a disappointing two-point loss to the Sydney Roosters last week.

If the Storm falter Friday night, the Roosters can take the lead with a win over their Harbour-side rivals the Manly Sea Eagles on Sunday.

The Roosters trail the Storm 34 points to 32 and are $1.77 favorites to take the points, with Manly on $2.08.