LION KING: Pivot Elton Jantjies

You have to tip your hat to the Lions after booking their place in next weekend’s Super Rugby final against the Hurricanes.

Having beaten New Zealand opposition in two knockout games over the past two weekends, they have given South African rugby hope once again.

But they will have to play out of their skins if they want to emulate Leicester’s Cinderella story in the Premier League when they play in Wellington next weekend.

Still, having been relegated from the competition in 2012, they have showed steady progress under coach Johan Ackermann.

A radical change in their approach to the game since Carlos Spencer and John Mitchell first took over, the Lions are finally hitting their straps and are successfully challenging Kiwi teams at their own game.

When they returned to the Super Rugby competition in 2014, they finished 12th overall.

They still continued with their new approach and finished eighth overall the following year.

Then this year happened and they could have finished at the top of the standings, but decided to send a second-string team to Argentina to face the Jaguares.

They might still pay the price for that this weekend.

But I’m pretty sure Elton Jantjies and company have captured the hearts of every single South African rugby supporter out there.

When he was interviewed for his Man of the Match performance, Jantjies couldn’t hold back the tears and it was evident that the win over the Highlanders meant the world to the team.

That sort of passion might see them springing what would be a big surprise next weekend.

It also bodes well for the Springbok team as they enter this year’s Rugby Championship.

All the talk throughout the season was about how big the gap between the New Zealand sides and the rest of the competition is.

And yes, one team doesn’t make a country.

But a realisation that something special is happening in Johannesburg might give Allister Coetzee the necessary tools to combat the All Blacks this year.

I don’t believe it should be a case of “maak die Lions almal Bokke”.

Instead, for the first time in a while, I think it will be important for Coetzee to select Super Rugby combinations.

For example, the best lock pairing in this country is Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth, midfield Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Lionel Mapoe, etc.

It will help the puzzle fit in quicker and better. And only then they might have a chance of winning the Rugby Championship.